No surprise, Paris will host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. And come September 15, after the public concert that will enliven the city hall square to celebrate the return of the French delegation from Lima, it will be time to deliver what has been promised. Can Paris succeed where many Olympic cities have failed in the past, with a project being the certified copy of the bid?
Is it a foolish dream to imagine a finished product on par with the budget?
Many Parisiens – a tough crowd – roll their eyes knowing that if «impossible is not French, it is also highly improbable that it will end up as a perfect fairytale for them in seven years. The local taxpayer always gets the feeling that (s)he will be the butt of the (Olympic) joke especially as (s)he’s not consulted–like in Paris.
But in a country where economic rigor is a new mantra, it is said that Emmanuel Macron, the French President, will hold the Paris 2024 team in front of its responsibilities – the idea of an audit might already be in the air if it were not contested by Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris.
Initially, the budget was 6,2 billion Euros and along the bidding process, it jumped to 6,7 billion. And according to Armand de Rendinger, the French Olympic veteran consultant, there is no chance that these games will cost less than €10 billion. So, he truly believes that «an audit would be useful at this stage.
The difference between 6,7 and 10 is obviously huge, but that gap might be easily filled by «extras» if you consider economic inflation, massive security issues and constructions that may have been undervalued in the bidding project. For example, the budget for the aquatics center has been reckoned at 108 million Euros which seems to be really low if you compare with the new Danube Arena, which hosted the recent FINA World Championships in Budapest and cost 130 million Euro (Hungarian government source). Of course, the global economic environment may also have some impact on the bill and in that regard, it was not comforting to hear Jean-Claude Trichet, former French president of the European Central Bank, predicting, last week, a looming and inevitable financial crisis that would include, this time, China and Asia.
More than with the 2028 Los Angeles Games, the IOC credibility will also be at stake with the 2024 Paris Games as part of the Agenda 2020 already seen as a failure by some critics due to consecutive withdrawals of cities like Boston, Hamburg, Rome and Budapest during the 2024 race. If the Paris budget drifts or explodes, it will mark the end of Thomas Bach’s illusions and the IOC will have to think about a new emergency exit. In that regard, the name of the chairman of the 2024 Paris IOC coordination commission will be highly interesting to know. The Swiss Patrick Baumann, president of the 2024 evaluation commission, might be the obvious choice as he knows French habits and customs very well -his role could be expanded to LA 2028 as well.
The Paris 2024 governance was officially announced in May. Tony Estanguet will be president of the Paris 2024 organizing committee with his fellow co-chair Bernard Lapasset as honorary president. Etienne Thobois would continue as chief executive. Anne Hidalgo will be chair of a Solideo committee responsible for delivering all facilities and venues necessary to host the Olympics and Paralympics– a senior managing director will be known before the end of September.
That’s the cast, but some recent tension between Etienne Thobois and the Mayor might redistribute the roles – who knows – very soon. During the last few weeks, Anne Hidalgo had good reasons to be overwrought because of a book– Notre Drame de Paris (Drame for drama instead of Dame) – that fiercely pans all of her politics. After the summer break, the scale of her plan to make Paris the supposedly world’s most bikeable city has angered many motorists, who accuse Hidalgo’s team of seeking to impose a foreign model without thinking about the immediate consequences.
On social media, the battle between those for and against Hidalgo is ugly. The next mayoral election, in March 2020, will be a storm, win or lose, for Anne Hidalgo, often accused of authoritarianism and sectarianism. Valérie Pécresse, the conservative Paris region president, who is her personal enemy, and who, notably, presides over the Seine-Saint Denis department, where the aquatics center and the Olympic Village, won’t help her.
How will Tony Estanguet navigate in the middle of these opposite currents with Emmanuel Macron anticipated as a scrupulous captain very solicitous over putting right-hand (wo)men in the future Paris Organizing Committees of the Olympic Games (OCOG)? Will he be at the level of this complicated job?
That’s a tough question in a country where all is about politics. Jean-Claude Blanc, general manager of the Paris Saint-Germain and close to Jean-Claude Killy, is a personality whose name is often mentioned as an alternative in case of trouble in the Paris team.
Fluctuat nec mergitur (Tossed by the waves but never sunk) is the Latin motto used since 1853 by the City of Paris. Start of the Olympic odyssey in the coming days and time for the communication’s sandmen to disembark.
By Yannick Cochennec for The Sport Intern
This story first appeared in the blog, The Sport Intern. The editor is Karl-Heinz Huba of Lorsch, Germany. He can be reached at ISMG@aol.com. The article is reprinted here with permission of Huba.