Drones might solve one of the biggest 2024 Summer Olympics controversies

While all eyes for the 2024 Summer Olympics seem to be on Paris, one of the biggest controversies is happening on the other side of the world in Teahupo’o, Tahiti.

While every other Olympic event will be held either in Paris or elsewhere in France (for example, sailing will be held in the Mediterranean city of Marseille), surfing is set to occur in French Polynesia. The Tahitian surfing venue is nearly 16,000 kilometers (10,000 miles) and 10 time zones away from Paris. And that far away location is proving to be one of the biggest 2024 Summer Olympics controversies.

According to officials, the construction of a judging tower is causing damage to coral reefs, as it’d entail an aluminum tower physically attached to the reef. Because of the uniqueness of the landscape at Teahupo’o where the surf breaks offshore, the 2024 Summer Olympics judges would have to sit out over the water, according to the Associated Press.

In turn, that’s called for the necessity of some sort of over-water judging platform. The building of such a platform has prompted protests in Tahiti and an online petition with more than 230,000 signatures.

2024 Summer Olympics
Teahupo’o, Tahiti is set to host the surfing portion of the 2024 Summer Olympics. (Photo by Getty Images)

Organizers have been trying various solutions, including building an alternative barge — which also damaged the coral. The French towns of Lacanau and La Torche in continental France (both of which are on the country’s west coast against the Atlantic Ocean) have also offered to host surfing.

But there’s one more solution that could potentially keep the surfing portion of the 2024 Summer Olympics in Tahiti: drones.

As first spotted by Drone DJ, a proposal by the International Surfing Association would rely heavily on drones for judging the 2024 Summer Olympics. The drones are spelled out in “Option B” in a document dated Dec. 9, 2023. As part of that proposal, judges would remain in a tower constructed on the land. They would have access to a view different camera angles, including a boom/crane or scissor lift cameras. Those would be augmented by cameras filmed on boats or jetskis, as well as drones.

That model would allow for four Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) plus two OBS boat camera, by way of both Main Tower and lagoon views, as well as jetski cameras and drones providing additional views. It would all allow “judges to have continuous or instant access to all possible OBS camera angles, as per the current plan including water/boat cameras and drones,” according to the International Surfing Association’s report.

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An aerial view of Tahiti (Photo by Getty Images)

Unfortunately for both the environmental and pro-drone crowds for now, though, it seems like plans to build the aluminum tower are still in motion. Paris 2024 president Tony Estanguet told Reuters in an article published on Dec. 20 that the option to judge the 2024 Summer Olympics from the shore and instead rely on other cameras such as cranes and drones “had been discarded because it would mean the events being judged from a 900-meter distance.”

“”We can’t broadcast like this in good conditions and in terms of sporting fairness, it would be a problem,” he said to Reuters. “Events have always been judged from a tower. Tahiti asked to host the surfing events and we will continue to work with all stakeholders to make it happen.”

Perhaps Estanguet just doesn’t yet understand the power of drones. Or, he certainly might not be aware of technology like the DJI Mavic 3’s 28x Hybrid Zoom, which gets the eyes far closer to 900 meters than they even would in a tower.

Protests are expected to continue as the tower undergoes construction.

What do you think should happen? Perhaps the 2024 Summer Olympics can provide an opportunity for DJI to send a free DJI Mavic 3 to Estanguet in a publicity stunt to both prove the power of drones and save the reef? Leave a comment, and subscribe to The Drone Girl for more daily email updates!

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