Paris 2024 Olympics rejects wavepool
When surfing was accepted into the Olympics back in 2016 there existed a distinct possibility that it'd be run in a wavepool. Shidashita Beach, Tokyo, where competition was due to be held, is a low quality beachbreak. Even the most optimistic forecaster knew the XXXII Olympiad had long odds of getting good waves, stretched even further by being completely out of season.
There was a reasonable argument that the most-watched surfing event of all time should be held in good waves. Also, having the Olympic gold medallist decided, not by skill, but by the vagaries of the ocean seemed unjust, and a controlled environment would put paid to that debate.
The Kelly Slater Wave Company (KSWC) quickly purchased land in Tokyo and made lots of noise about it. In September 2018, KSWC President Nick Franklin told Sports Business Daily, "With surfing going into the Olympics, we want to be supporting the markets where the Olympics will be headed." Yet the move was more commonly seen as an attempt to backdoor the Olympics and have it run surfing in their pool.
The Tokyo organisers, however, were adamant their event would be held in saltwater. Since then we've heard little from Nick Franklin about the KSWC Tokyo pool.
Attention shifted four years hence to the Paris Olympics. Unlike Tokyo, Paris has no nearby coastline - the largely unsurfable English channel is 150kms away - and rather than rushing to construct a pool, as they were doing at Tokyo, either KSWC or their European rival Wavegarden could take their time to build a pool and ingratiate themselves with the Olympic movement.
But with over five years to go till Paris that dream has just been quashed. Writing overnight in Wave Pool Mag - yes there is such a thing - Chris Klein quoted Tony Estanguet, president of Paris 2024, as confirming that surfing would again be in the ocean.
“It was decided at the last Paris 2024 Board of Directors meeting not to use artificial waves to host the surfing events, opting instead to use a natural site,” said Estanguet. “We are fortunate in France to have several natural sites that have the experience and expertise to host major international surfing events.”
Those sites are Lacanau, Hossegor, La Torche, and Biarritz. However, it is the Summer Olympics - Paris 2024 will be held from 26 July till 11 August - so, like Tokyo, the dates fall well outside their swell season.
Despite Tony Estanguet's assurances, I expect we'll be seeing more agitation from the wave pool companies, particularly KSWC. Since surfing was accepted into the Olympics it's been viewed as a springboard to greater heights. Athletes want to increase their exposure, sporting organisations want a bigger share of the government spend, and if private companies such as KSWC or Wavegarden were to have the greatest show on Earth run in their pools it would provide legitimacy and a significant branding advantage.