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Monday July 22, 2024

Olympic torch odyssey reaches the surf of Tahiti

By AFP
June 15, 2024
French surfer Vahine Fierro holds the Olympic flame during the Olympic torch relay in Teahupo’o in Tahiti — AFP/file
French surfer Vahine Fierro holds the Olympic flame during the Olympic torch relay in Teahupo’o in Tahiti — AFP/file 

PAPEETE: The Olympic torch touched new ground - and water - by landing in French Polynesia, shining the flame on Tahiti which will host the surfing event of Paris 2024. The torch was accompanied on its journey along the coast and out to sea on Thursday by the singing and dancing of thousands of Tahitians who turned out in spite of the rain.

Nearly 16,000 kilometres (9,950 miles) away, the Games start in Paris on July 26 with the Opening Ceremony along the Seine.

Tahiti, with the legendary Teahupo´o waves that often reach two to three metres sometimes a lot more, will host what should be a spectacular surfing competition from July 27 to 31. French team coach, Tahitian Hira Teriinatoofa, the first torchbearer, took over from local surfer Vahine Fierro, who carried the lantern as close as possible to the Teahupo´o wave.

Last month Fierro, 24, who was born on the neighbouring island of Huahine, won the women´s Tahiti Pro on the waves of Teahupo´o to mark herself down as one of the favourites for Olympic gold “I´m going to pass on my energy to the flame, so that it reaches Vahine Fierro, Kauli Vaast and Teuraiterai Tupaia,” 11-year-old triathlete Kalea Crawford, the youngest member of the local relay, told AFP, referring to the three Tahitian athletes who qualified for the Games in the surf and javelin.

In December, a controversy surrounding the judges´ tower led to fears that the event in Teahupo´o would be cancelled. But on Thursday evening Polynesian President Moetai Brotherson, his Sports Minister Nahema Temarii and the French government´s representative in Polynesia, Eric Spitz, were all smiles as they held up three Olympic torches in front of the cauldron.

This was the 31st stage of the torch relay across France and its far-flung overseas territories before the opening ceremony in Paris. The torch left mainland France on June 7 and will return to Nice on Monday.