The world is coming to Paris for the 33rd Olympiad in summer 2024 and the preparations reveal that the city plans to host quite a party. Yes, it will be a 21st-century sporting extravaganza, but also a chance to showcase Paris at its spectacular best. All the world’s favorite Parisian sights will play their part, in the opening ceremony and also in the events themselves, and there will be more than 100,000 hours of television coverage so global audiences will have every chance to drool.
The opening ceremony on July 26th 2024 will put Paris center stage immediately. Instead of the usual stadium procession, athletes and officials will sail down the River Seine against a backdrop of iconic Parisian vistas: Notre-Dame, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower. For this Parade of Nations, 160 boats will carry athletes from over 200 countries along a four-mile route from the Pont d’Austerlitz to the Trocadéro, watched by an enormous global audience. And 600,000 spectators will be invited to line the river or stand on specially built viewing platforms along the route. As the IOC President Thomas Bach explains, the opening ceremony will focus on the River Seine, “the emblematic river in the very heart of the city.”
Paris will remain center stage for the whole of the Games, as many of the landmark sights form backdrops for the sporting events. The city has already proved that adding the shock of the new to a historic building can bring new perspectives: setting the modernistic Arche de la Défense against the stately Arc de Triomphe, planting the provocative Centre Pompidou, nicknamed “the oil refinery,” in the ancient quartier of Beaubourg. Quirky juxtapositions will make the 2024 Games memorable too. Beach volleyball will be played on the Champs de Mars, with the Eiffel Tower in the background and there will be BMX and skateboarding on the Place de la Concorde. Taekwondo at the Grand Palais will be memorable and who will forget watching archery on the Esplanade des Invalides or equestrian events at Versailles?
Running and cycling events will take athletes – and their global audience – through the city. The routes for road races will include Les Invalides, the Trocadéro and the Hôtel de Ville, beginning at the Pont d’Iéna and ending at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. The marathon will start from the Hôtel de Ville and finish at Les Invalides. The road cycling time trials will start at Les Invalides and finish at Pont Alexandre III. The latter, often named the most beautiful bridge in Paris, will also feature in the marathon swimming and triathlon events. Paris will be ever-present in the 2024 Olympics in a way no previous host city has managed, delighting Paris lovers and winning millions of new admirers.
Some of the city’s most iconic sporting venues will be used too. The Stade de France, built in St Denis and scene of France’s 1998 World Cup triumph, will be transformed into the Olympic Stadium. Some football matches will take place at the Parc des Princes, home of Paris St-Germain in the 16th arrondissement, although others will be played across France in Nantes, Bordeaux, Lyon, Nice and Marseille. The tennis events will be at Roland-Garros, already known to the world as the home of the French Open, held in May every year. Featuring the city’s iconic stadiums will remind the world of France’s huge role in world sport. It will also bring an economy to the Games which befits the post-Covid era and put the Olympic Committee’s green agenda center stage.
There will be some new buildings too, principally the Olympic Village which is under construction on reclaimed industrial land in Seine-Saint-Denis, about four miles north of the city center. It will include the Olympic Village Plaza, opening onto the river, and nearly 3000 apartments, destined eventually to become social housing. Also in this area, close to the Stade de France, there will be a new Olympic swimming pool, the first built in the city since the Paris Olympics in 1924. That too will become a community benefit, left as a legacy in one of the city’s poorest districts where it is estimated that half of 11-year-olds can’t swim.
Urban regeneration is one of the major themes adopted by the Paris 2024 Organizing Committee. Yes, central Paris will be highlighted, but the siting of the center of gravity, the Olympic Village and the Olympic Stadium itself, will ensure that the eyes of the world will be on St Denis, which will benefit from the investment and new jobs the Games will bring. Paris 2024 has also set itself the goal of being “the first climate-positive Games” and the Organizing Committee aims to reduce carbon emissions by 50% compared to previous Games. Maximizing the use of existing facilities will play a huge part in this, as will the focus on ensuring that new buildings leave a lasting legacy in the host city.
But perhaps the most important goal is the emphasis on inclusivity and participation. President Macron has spoken of “les Jeux de tous” – Everyone’s Games – and nowhere is this better highlighted than by the planned staging of the “Marathon pour tous,” which will be an Olympic first. This “Marathon for everyone” will be held on the same day as the Olympic Marathons, over the same course and all categories of the general public are invited to take part in challenges to win a place: young, old, able and disabled. Similarly, there will be public 10k and cycling events. Madame ou Monsieur Tout le Monde (Mr. and Mrs. Everybody) are cordially invited to apply.
A hundred years after the 1924 Olympics, also staged in Paris, the city is raring to go. The pelote basque event from a century ago, competed by only two countries – France and Spain – has long gone, but there are recent additions to the Olympic program like skate-boarding and new for Paris 2024, “le breaking,” a competitive form of break-dancing. The sport will be both traditional and contemporary and so will the vision of Paris transmitted to the world. Paris is hosting this huge sporting party, says IOC President Thomas Bach “and the world is invited.” Paris-lovers will lap it all up from the first moments of the opening ceremony along the Seine. I predict that by the time the closing ceremony is playing out against an Eiffel Tower backdrop a fortnight later, everyone else will be totally smitten, too.
Lead photo credit : A public viewing party for the 2020 Summer Olympics at Place du Trocadéro, which will be the site of the protocol for the 2024 opening ceremony © Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0