500 days away from the Olympics, Paris is betting on an iconic setting – 03/14/2023 – Sport

500 days away from the Olympics, Paris is betting on an iconic setting – 03/14/2023 – Sport

Beach volleyball at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. Equestrianism in the gardens of the Palace of Versailles. Skateboarding and breaking debut at Place de la Concorde, where King Louis 16th and Queen Marie Antoinette were beheaded during the French Revolution. This is how Paris plans dream Olympic and Paralympic Games: uniting the tradition of one of the most beautiful cities in the world with the royalty of sport.

Walking around the French capital, it doesn’t seem like 500 days from now the biggest multi-sport event on the planet will start. In front of the city hall, the symbols of the Games –the Olympic rings and the Paralympic events– attract tourists and onlookers, but there are no major construction works for arenas. Late planning? None of that.

Using iconic places as a backdrop is often a recipe for success for Olympic hosts. Paris has plenty of options and wants to integrate the competitions into the city, generating less cost than in previous editions and meeting the International Olympic Committee’s goal of having a leaner Games. Of the total sports facilities, 70% already exist and 25% will be temporary. Only one will be built from scratch: the Saint Denis Olympic Aquatics Centre, which will host water polo, diving and synchronized swimming and will remain as a legacy.

“One of the reasons why Paris was successful in the candidacy was that it had fantastic facilities and infrastructure in place, without the need for major new construction,” he told the Sheet the Paris-2024 Organizing Committee.

“We will deliver a new model of Games based on tradition through innovation and imagination. Using existing facilities, we set a new standard and demonstrate that it is possible to organize a spectacular celebration prioritizing economy, social and sustainability.”

“Using world famous arenas and creating temporary ones in the heart of the city, we promote the best of France.” Two of them are related to Brazil, for different reasons: the Stade de France, where the team lost the 1998 World Cup final, will host athletics and rugby; Roland Garros, where Gustavo Kuerten was three times champion, will be the scenario for tennis and boxing.

The Games boosted road and public space reforms, training and competition venues. A major metro expansion project was accelerated, and jewels of French architecture are being renovated – as is the case with the Grand Palais, which will be the venue for fencing and taekwondo.

Notre Dame Cathedral, hit by a fire in 2019, will not be fully recovered in time, but it will have an exhibition open to the public.

Paris will reinvent the opening ceremony, which for the first time will not be in a stadium. The athletes’ parade will take place on boats on the Seine River, with 600,000 spectators on a six-kilometer course.

With 10,500 athletes at the Olympic Games and 4,400 at the Paralympics in an event where everything is superlative, crowds raise safety concerns. Chaos at the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid at the Stade de France, last year, when police hit fans with pepper spray and tear gas, left lessons and lit a warning sign.

In addition, millions of French people have been taking to the streets for months to protest against the pension reform, a government project that aims to change the minimum retirement age from 62 to 64 years. The 500-day date for the Games will be marked by yet another series of strikes across the country. The stoppages have affected the functioning of schools, the rail and air transport system, the supply of fuel to refineries and even the work of street cleaners, leaving tons of garbage accumulated in the streets of Paris.

There is also the financial issue. The war in Ukraine has left the global economy more fragile and, historically, Olympic budgets have not been met. A recent study revealed that the Games could cost the French up to 3 billion euros (R$ 16.8 billion) in public money, three times more than at the time of the bid.

As a reference, the total cost of the Rio Olympics in 2016, according to the TCU (Tribunal de Contas da União), was R$ 43.75 billion, in values ​​at the time, of which R$ 21.52 billion in public resources ( R$ 37.56 billion in restated amounts).

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine also brings a sports controversy. Ukrainians threaten to boycott Paris-2024 if Russians and Belarusians are not banned. The IOC hinted that athletes from both countries could compete in the Games as neutral, without a flag or anthem.

For Heather Dichter, professor of Sport Management and History at Montfort University, the biggest losers in boycotts end up being the athletes.

“Most only compete once in the Olympics, [atletas como] Michael Phelp or Usain Bolt are the exception. If the chance is taken away from them, many will never get another chance,” he told Sheet.

“Boycotts with a political aim rarely succeed. The one in Moscow in 1980 [liderado pelos Estados Unidos em retaliação à invasão soviética ao território afegão] did not cause the Soviet Union to leave Afghanistan.”

“It did have a financial impact on tourist numbers and ticket sales in the Soviet Union. This time it would not be a Ukrainian boycott of the host country, and France is aligned with Ukraine.”

International pressure grows. In a letter, more than 30 countries including hosts France expressed concern about “strong links between Russian athletes and their Armed Forces” and asked the IOC for explanations.

“It will be interesting to hear from the athletes going forward. Their voice had a lot of power in 2020 for the Tokyo Games to be postponed because of the pandemic,” he said. “Ukrainians are speaking out, but listening to other competitors around the world could serve to push for a change in attitude from the IOC, which always says the Games are for the athletes.”

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