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Macron kicks off Olympic countdown 500 days before Paris Games

French President Emmanuel Macron kicked off the countdown to the 2024 Paris Olympics on Tuesday, assessing preparations for the mega-event as officials race to build the city’s transport network and stage a game like no other. opening ceremony.

Macron, promising an “unforgettable” opening ceremony, hosted Olympic organizers and business partners at the Elysee Palace to discuss preparations for the world’s biggest sporting event. He spoke at Paris police headquarters on the banks of the Seine later on Tuesday, addressing hundreds of civil servants involved in the effort.

On the eve of his visit, Macron teased the event by tweeting the cover of the latest issue of Time magazine, titled a competition to clean up the “world’s most romantic river”.

“In 500 days we will realize one of the greatest legacies of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” the French president wrote, referring to an ambitious 1.4 billion euro plan to Clean up heavily polluted areas. The canal was delivered in time.

Making the Seine swimmable is an age-old Parisian dream. In 1988, then-mayor of the city, Jacques Chirac, a former French president, promised to make the river waterable “within three years” — a promise he never kept.

Now that Paris has committed to hosting multiple Olympic events on the Seine, including a 10km swimming marathon, that dream has become a necessity – just as it did when it first hosted the Games in 1900.

The prospect of athletes swimming on the world-famous river alongside Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower was a major asset in the French capital’s bid to host “the greatest show on earth”.


The city’s famous waterways are the focus of another grand challenge for organizers of the 33rd Gamesroad The Summer Olympics, the games that are sure to keep many French officials awake for the next 500 days.

In what may be Paris’s biggest gamble of 2024, organizers plan to move the opening ceremony from traditional stadiums to water.

The vision Macron has outlined is for sports delegations to sail in fleets down the Seine, with as many as 600,000 spectators on the 6-kilometre stretch of the river’s banks.

The appeal of presenting such a bold statement of French ambition in front of a global television audience of hundreds of millions was obvious. Turning it into reality is said to make planners break out in a cold sweat.

The number of rowing boats, spectator arrangements, crowd control and security measures continue to be hotly debated as the Olympics loom. The first exercise is expected to take place in July this year, with 30 to 40 boats taking part.

“Everyone is fully prepared,” a senior French official told AFP on condition of anonymity. “A ceremony like this has never been done before. But we’ll take care of it, we’ll be ready.”

Focus on France © France 24

However, concerns have been expressed by some safety experts, who warn of the dangers of uncontrolled movement of people close to the water and the challenge of securing such a long stretch of water while overlooking buildings.

Skeptics pointed to the chaotic scenes at last year’s Champions League final in Paris, when Liverpool fans found themselves enamored outside the stadium, as a reminder of the dangers of poorly organized sporting events.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who was heavily criticized for his handling of the UEFA Champions League debacle, traveled to Qatar for a fact-finding trip to the World Cup last November. There, he warned that “a drone loaded with explosives could fall on crowds, on exposed teams, for example at the opening ceremony of the Olympics”.

Traffic problems

For the opening ceremony, Dalmanin is counting on 35,000 members of the security forces to be on duty, and police have warned that no leave will be allowed during the summer holidays.

The Home Office has also proposed 25,000 private security personnel for less critical missions, with thousands currently being screened, recruited and trained. However, another source close to the event told AFP that the low offer made by the organizing committee meant that many private security firms were struggling to recruit staff.

On Tuesday, Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra said there was “no taboo” regarding military conscription if necessary, as was the case at the 2012 London Olympics.

Another recruitment headache comes as the Paris region’s transport system struggles to recover from a year of chronic staff shortages and sporadic strikes – one of which sparked chaos in the Champions League final.

Like the football final, most of the games at the Olympics will be played in Seine-Saint-Denis department Northeast of Paris, the poorest area of ​​the French metropolis and the most densely populated after Paris, is known for its dilapidated transport infrastructure.

There are serious questions over whether an extension of a key subway line to the athletes’ village will be completed in time for the Olympics, and a critical shortage of bus drivers has raised concerns.

“We will do everything we can to be ready in time,” Macron’s former prime minister, Jean Castex, now head of the RATP transport operator, told reporters last week, promising a massive recruitment drive.

Adding insult to injury, plans to break up RATP’s monopoly on bus services soon after the Games could spell trouble for jobs, as unions strongly oppose the move and the threat of strike action looms over the games.

Given the time constraints, Valérie Pécresse, the conservative head of the Paris region, has used the Olympics to secure an extra 200 million euros from the central government, threatening to delay the launch of new transport lines under her purview. open.

In the best-case scenario, traffic will be well below the levels organizers promised when they submitted their final bids seven years ago. The future metro line that promises to link Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport to the athletes’ village “within 30 minutes” won’t be ready in time for the Olympics; nor will the long-delayed CDG express train linking the airport to central Paris.


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