The Cultural Olympiad: A Cornucopia of Events in Paris

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The Cultural Olympiad: A Cornucopia of Events in Paris

This is the first of two articles highlighting the rich cultural program associated with the Paris Olympics. Find info on kids’ activities here.

During the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, and the days leading up to it, there are a wide range of activities that don’t require admission to the Games at all. It’s all part of what the French Ministry of Culture has called the Cultural Olympiad, a multi-disciplinary way to stretch what Olympic founder Pierre de Coubertin called the “muscles and mind,” by combining art, culture and sport. In Paris 2024, artists, troupes, communities, sports clubs, and activists play a part in the Games’ cultural program. There are thousands of events to experience throughout France – some you can even participate in. Just scratching the surface, here are a selection of events to enjoy throughout the capital city.  

The Hotel de Ville/City Hall 

Although the Hotel de Ville has been buzzing with Olympic-themed events since 2023, it’ll be turning up the volume to bring Olympic festivities into the heart of the city from July 14 to September 8th, 2024. The accessible courtyard called the Terrasse de Jeux will host competitions, demonstrations and celebrations where Parisians and visitors can immerse themselves in the atmosphere of the games, with a rich and varied calendar.   

This festive spot has been designed to accommodate 2,500 celebrants and may see double that. There will be six mini-sports practice areas, two multi-sport fields, a dojo, a stadium, an athletics track and a climbing wall. On the main stage there will be daily sporting, artistic, musical and cultural performances.. A number of French and international athletes and ambassadors will be on hand to share and celebrate the spirit of the Games with the general public. Neighborhood centers and community activists bring awareness of societal and environmental issues through workshops.  

There will be two giant screens with live broadcasts of competitions. It is here where the Olympic and Paralympic torches will arrive on July 14 – Bastille Day – and August 28th. The marathons begin here on August 10 and 11th.

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La terrasse des jeux. Courtesy of Paris.fr

Architecture 

Archi-Folies 2024: in the Parc de La Villette is a project of unprecedented scale which brings together, for the first time, students from the National Schools of Architecture and Landscape to design and create 20 temporary pavilions, each representing a sports federation. For several months, the students have been designing these prototypes of ecological architecture, both practical and reusable. Open to the public free of charge from June 14 to July 7 and August 28 to September 3, 2024 at the Grand Hall de la Villette (211 Av. Jean Jaurès, 19th).

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Archives 

On the occasion of the Paris 2024 Games, the Archives Nationale de France launched an operation to collect and promote sports archives from clubs, athletes, supporters, equipment manufacturers, and the general public. Everything gathered has a sports story to tell whether it be photos, event programs, newsletters or videos. Now they can be witnessed through exhibitions, educational activities, and multimedia at the Archives. Until December 31, 2024. Free and open to the public. (11 Rue des Quatre Fils, 3rd)

Art 

The Fondation Louis Vuitton reveals works by five French and international artists in it’s Le Collection, Rendez-vous Avec Le Sport, running until September 9, 2024. In three dedicated rooms Abraham Poincheval shows us how to walk on clouds; Andreas Gursky shows us the determination of cross-country skiers; Roman Signer demonstrates the importance of the palindromic kayak; Omar Victor Diop is depicted in self-portraits, in a pastiche of pride, pomp, and incongruous costumes. The gallery will also feature Basquiat’s personal approach to the Olympic rings. 

On March 12, 2024, the gigantic tapestry for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games was unveiled to the general public, after three years of meticulous work by artisans from the national manufacturers at les Gobelins and Beauvais. They brought to life the project designed by Franco-Iranian artist Marjane Satrapi, inspired by the poster for the 1924 games. The public can see it free of charge from July 26 to September 8, 2024 at 42 Avenue des Gobelins, 13th.

Cultural Pavilions 

Seine Canada Festival: For the Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games, the ever so cool floating urban art center Fluctuart is transforming into a Canadian cultural home-away-from-home. From July 27 to September 8, 2024, urban art, fashion and gastronomy can be experienced through the lens of the Franco-Canadian friendship.  Beavertails and butter tarts must be on the menu.

Plunge into Danish culture at the Maison du Denmark. From July 26 to August 11, 2024, this free, open-access cultural venue offers a program of exhibitions, music, design, ecology, and well-being workshops. 

The Swiss Embassy promises a “creative” gastronomy concept during the games. In the Embassy’s bucolic gardens there will be art installations and a “public projection zone” allowing visitors to follow the Olympic Games events and medal ceremonies. There will also be a rich cultural program for young and old,  featuring concerts with both Swiss and local musicians and DJs. 

In harmony with the Olympic spirit, the Korean Cultural Center of Paris will celebrate the 2024 Olympic Games by sharing the culture of sports and games Korean-style. Visitors will be immersed in the world of Noli (meaning “game” in Korean) from the 18th century to today’s e-games, digital art, and gaming culture. The exhibition Noli: jeux coréens will be on display until October 2024, at the Centre Culturel Coréen, 20 rue la Boétie, 8th. 

 

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Dance 

Malakoff scène Nationale reunites circus and sport with art and dance through Malakoff en Mouvement. This vital arts hub featuring Théâtre 71, Cinéma Marcel Pagnol, and Fabrique des arts is just to the south of the Péripherique. The Cinema Marcel Pagnol is in on the act featuring films linked to the world of dance. 

The collection of the Musée d’Orsay serves as a backdrop to the cultural Olympiad, with various performances planned up until June 22, 2024. The ultimate event is the costume Ball Olympique 1924-2024, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the last Paris Olympics. The Umlaut Big Band Orchestra will be playing music from the era to a crowd of dancers outfitted in 1920s clothes.  

Exterior of the Orsay Museum. Photo credit: Daniel Vorndran/ Wikimedia commons

Danse des 5 Continents (Dance of the 5 Continents) brings together artists from the four corners of the world at the Théâtre du Châtelet on June 21 and 22nd. The companies performing will be Ikiyago Legacy, a troupe of dancers from Burundi; from Brazil, Batuc’Ados; the traditional Navasart Armenian Ballet; the Japanese drummers of Paris Taïko Ensemble; Poulido de Gèmo, a troupe from Provence; and the Tahiti Marquises ballet. A grand finale will bring together all the companies. Free. 

La (tres) Grande Forme by Bordeaux Metropolitan International Arts Festival is kind of a crazy dare – a choreographic countdown to the Olympic Games, launched in 2018. On June 15, 2024, the Grand Finale will be in the courtyard of the Hotel de Ville with two performances of this extra-large feat of choreography with 400 amateur dancers from Île-de-France joined by 400 residents of Nouvelle-Aquitaine. No charge to watch or perform. No matter what your skill, visitors can still sign up.

Differently Abled 

OLYMP’ touch: Through the creation of a high-relief tactile work by the artisans at Creanog, the history of the Olympic and Paralympic Games will be told through touch for visually impaired people to perceive and share. This inclusive artistic project is of course open to all.  Institut national des jeunes aveugles, 56 boulevard des Invalides, 7th. From July 20 to September 29th 2024.

Fashion and Design 

Luxury conglomerate LVMH, a premium sponsor of the Paris Olympics, is launching its own Cultural Olympiad. Unique works of art and historical pieces are exhibited to the general public within several of its iconic addresses: Guerlain, Dior, Louis Vuitton, La Samaritaine, and Berluti, the brand behind the design for the French Olympic and Paralympic team’s outfits. Dior, Guerlain and Berluti teamed up with photographers who make the most of movement, sports, fashion and gold in its tantalizing forms. Maison Louis Vuitton will feature a room at LV Dream (26 Quai de la Mégisserie, 1st), dedicated to the historic links between sport and this luxury luggage forerunner. Neighboring La Samaritaine will exhibit Les Legendes Mondiales, featuring 100 objects belonging to the greatest athletes of the last 100 years.

The “La Samaritaine” department store in Paris, France. Photo taken from the Pont Neuf. (C) Pierre Camateros, CC BY-SA 3.0

Food  

The Refugee Food Festival was begun by the solidarity project Food Sweet Food. Their mission is to change the way people look at the status of refugees by showcasing the best of world cuisine. This wonderful initiative creates a civil society around the table, as 11 restaurants in and around Paris give their kitchens to these talented refugee chefs from June 12 to 24, 2024. For more information, click here.

 

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Kiosks  

More than 40 kiosks – open air meeting places in Parisian green locales –  will host events until October 2024. There will be hundreds of activities throughout the city comprised of shows, music, dance, theater, sporting events, and literary readings. It’s free entertainment for everyone.   

Multi-disciplinary 

The Odyssey is a multidisciplinary event initiated by La Guinguette Pirate that celebrates Paris’s canals and draws visitors to the water. It’s a festive, collective event where crews of participants from sport and culture navigate the canal using small wooden sailboats, in unique and ingenious colors and designs. The Odyssey is planning a weekend of festivities (June 22 and 23) at 3 Place de la Pointe in Pantin, where the regatta is accompanied by open air concerts, a musical cruise, a costume ball, and a fabulous floating and carbon-free parade on the Ourcq Canal.

SPOT24: At the foot of the Eiffel Tower, Paris Je t’aime (the Paris Tourist Office) is offering not just information, tickets, and coffee, but also a place where new Olympic disciplines and urban cultures are in the spotlight. Think BMX, freestyle, skateboarding, sport climbing, surfing, 3×3 basketball,  breaking, and even e-sports.

Museums  

Until September 15, 2024, the Musée de la Poste’s Marathon, the Messenger’s Race exhibit offers a multidisciplinary, colorful and surprising discovery of the marathon, inspired by the legend of the runner Philippides, who died after running more than 40 kilometers to announce the Greek victory at the battle of Marathon. Through 160 works, including film extracts, posters and newspapers, sporting objects, texts, comic strips and other works, they get the message across. 34 boulevard de Vaugirard, 15th.

On the occasion of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Musée Carnavalet-Histoire de Paris is consolidating more than 70 works from their permanent collections which have their basis in Olympic disciplines and sporting activities. Paintings, photographs, posters, medals, and mementos from past Olympics will be exhibited until September 8, 2024, as part of the always-free permanent collection. 23 Rue de Sévigné, 3rd. 

During the month of June the Musée Carnavalet is hosting breakdance performances and workshops in the galleries and up and down the precarious stairs. Demonstrations will forge links between the history of the capital and the modern sporting practice of hip hop.   

The Louvre is staging the Modern Invention – Ancient Legacy exhibit until Sept 16, 2024. Included in general admission, this exhibition examines the first modern Olympic Games in the late 19th century and how the international event came into being- an idea shared by Pierre de Coubertin and a number of French and Greek VIPs. Swiss draughtsman Emile Gilléron, once a copyist at the Louvre, was named the official artist to the 1896 Olympics and designed winners’ trophies, posters, stamps and promotional material.  The Louvre’s exhibit will demonstrate how science, history, art history and archaeology came together to create this global sporting event. The first Olympic cup of the Modern Games is on display.

Music  

So much of the Cultural Olympiad is happening at the Philharmonie de Paris, where this summer a link between sport and music has been forged. Here’s a small selection.  

The aptly named artistic conductor Benjamin Millepied and choreographer Idio Chicha join to produce the show Dzuda on the roof of the Philharmonie.  

Sequenza 9.3 is a choral project assembled over the last four years with the residents of Seine-Saint-Denis and various amateur choirs.  

Other events suitable for both young and old alike can be found at the Philharmonie de Paris which blend music, sport and dance 

Terraces 

From July 1 to September 8, 2024, the capital’s 3,000 iconic terraces have the go-ahead to remain open until midnight in order to shake up Paris sidewalks and electrify summer evenings 

Olympics Viewing Locations

Giant screens will be available to watch Olympic events live at the following locations. 

1st arrondissement: the Parc Rives de Seine  and Quartier Jeunes 

2nd arrondissement: the Fabrique de la Solidarité  

4th arrondissement: the Académie du Climat 

5th arrondissement: the Arènes de Lutèce 

6th arrondissement: the Place Saint-Sulpice 

8th arrondissement: the Parc Monceau 

9th arrondissement: the Mairie 

10th arrondissement: the Canal St-Martin and the Grange aux Belles district 

11th arrondissement: the Mairie 

12th arrondissement: the Allée Vivaldi 

13th arrondissement: the Parc de Choisy 

14th arrondissement: the Centre sportif Elisabeth 

15th arrondissement: the Mairie 

16th arrondissement: the Parc Sainte-Périne 

17th arrondissement: the Parc Clichy Batignolles Martin Luther-King 

18th arrondissement: the Jardins d’Éole and the Square Léon Serpollet 

19th arrondissement: the Place Stalingrad, the Bassin de la Villette 

20th arrondissement: the Complexe sportif Louis Lumière

This is just a very small selection of events following in the Paris 2024 Olympic spirit. Please take advantage of links provided and this Cultural Olympiad website– tailor-made to find what floats your boat. Additional resources:

https://www.paris.fr/en/pages/join-the-party-checkout-the-paris-fete-les-jeux-program-27094 

https://www.culture.gouv.fr/en/regions/DRAC-Ile-de-France 

Lead photo credit : The Hotel de Ville in Paris celebrates the Olympics. Photo: Bonjour Paris

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A freelance writer and amateur historian, Hazel knew she wanted to focus on the lives of French artists and femme fatales after an epiphany at the Musée d'Orsay. A life-long learner, she is a recent graduate of Art History from the University of Toronto. Now she is searching for a real-life art history mystery to solve.