As France lays out the red carpet to inaugurate its new President Emmanuel Macron at the Elysee Palace on Sunday, Paris city leaders are welcoming visitors who’ll play a pivotal role in deciding whether the French capital will host the 2024 Summer Olympics.
Mayor Anne Hidalgo and other officials received a delegation of inspectors from the International Olympic Committee, whose assessment may prove critical should IOC members be asked to make a choice between Paris and Los Angeles, the other city still in the running.
IOC President Thomas Bach has asked a high-level group to investigate the possibility of awarding the 2024 and 2028 games to Paris and Los Angeles, respectively, in one go. A decision is due in July. The people running each bid say they’re only focused on staging the 2024 event, though. In Paris’s case, the event would mark the centennial of its 1924 Olympics.
Tony Estanguet, a four-time Olympian and three-time gold medal winner for France in canoeing, who’s co-chairman of the Paris bid, repeated that view in an interview on Saturday. He spoke shortly after the IOC delegation checked into the boutique Pullman Hotel a short distance from the Eiffel Tower, around which some events, including beach volleyball, triathlon and road cycling would be staged should Paris get the IOC’s nod.
“We continue to concentrate on 2024,” Estanguet said. He said, though, that he understood Olympic authorities’ desire to explore awarding the next two games at the same time after rival bids pulled out following public criticism with the costs of hosting. Among the short-listed candidate cities that have withdrawn are Budapest, Rome and Hamburg.
$6 Billion Price-Tag
Paris and Los Angeles, which inspectors visited last week, have similar proposed budgets for the Games at about $6 billion, with the U.S. city — which also held the Olympics in 1932 and 1984 — vowing that all costs will be met by the private sector. Last year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro were staged amid Brazil’s biggest financial crisis in decades.
“There’s no risk at all to organize the games in the center of Paris, with 95 percent of existing venues being used,” Estanguet said. “I will not say there’s any problems with this part.”
Los Angeles bid leaders also say they can provide the IOC with certainty at a time when the Olympic funding model has come under more scrutiny than ever before, allowing the Lausanne, Switzerland-based organization the time it needs to reorganize itself for the future.
About $1.5 billion of public funds will be used should Paris be successful, with much of it going toward the gritty Saint-Denis neighborhood where the Olympic Village would be built, Estanguet said. Some 45,000 homes would be built in an area in need of new housing and where crime and youth unemployment is high.
“It’s in need of a legacy, and the games will leave this legacy,” Estanguet said. Should Paris be awarded the games, organizers say the project will create 250,000 new jobs.
The commission visiting Paris was being led by former Namibian sprinter Frankie Fredericks until he was forced to pull out after being implicated in a vote-buying scheme related to the Rio Olympics. Other officials have been targeted by criminal investigations related to sports bids, creating concerns over the probity of the current Olympic race.
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