— Published 16 November 2021

With less than 1,000 days to go until Paris 2024, the State is rolling up its sleeves

The location was meant to be symbolic. So was the casting. With less than 1,000 days to go before the opening of the Paris 2024 Games, the French Prime Minister, Jean Castex, convened the second interministerial committee for the Olympic and Paralympic Games on Monday 15 November in Seine-Saint-Denis, in the Plaine des Sports at Le Bourget. Then he set off for the future aquatic centre, located not far from the Stade de France, to symbolically lay the first stone.

It was anything but a coincidence: this second interministerial committee was held just three days after the deputies adopted, as part of the 2022 finance law, the state guarantee in the event of a deficit for the Paris 2024 Games organising committee.

The message is clear: with less than three years to go before the deadline, the government is putting itself in battle order. The presence on Monday 15 November of a dozen ministers, including Gérald Darmanin, the Minister of the Interior, speaks volumes about the importance of the subject and the stakes involved. “We will not have the right to make a mistake, we will have to be there”, insisted Jean Castex.

And how? By casting a wide net. Very broadly. The French government had announced a series of 170 measures for 2019 designed to meet two major challenges: delivering the Games on time and on budget, and seizing the opportunity to leave a lasting social legacy. On Monday 15 November, Jean Castex unveiled a new batch of measures. They will be implemented between now and 2024, in order to promote the successful delivery of the Games and strengthen its social legacy.

– Creation of a dedicated training course for the security of the Games to compensate for the lack of agents from the public forces.

– Generalisation of the “30 minutes of physical activity and sport” in schools, in all elementary classes, i.e. nearly 36,000 schools.

– Development of sport and health, with a special scheme for overweight or obese children aged 3 to 8, which could be extended to adolescents up to the age of 12.

– Development of cycle lanes to link all the Olympic and Paralympic venues, with a budget of 10 million euros to support the local authorities concerned (48 km of sections are currently missing from the 420 km of Olympic routes).

– 1,000 Parisian taxis accessible by 2024 for people in wheelchairs (there are currently 300).

– Priority to be given to funding sports facilities.

– 11 million for the Ministry of Culture for the Cultural Olympics. They will be launched next year, with a first grant of €2 million in 2022, then a budget of €9 million for the period 2022-2024.

Sports, sport and health, safety, accessibility, culture, facilities… The government is thinking big and wide. Jean Castex wants “exemplary” Games, capable of reconciling “sobriety and ambition.

There is still one question, which is bound to be very media-friendly: the opening ceremony. Emmanuel Macron, the President of the Republic, had taken the lead by announcing last summer, as a form of evidence, that it would be held outside the stadium and in the middle of Paris. Since then, the State services have been looking into the matter. Unsurprisingly, it turned out to be extremely complex, especially in terms of security.

Cautious, the representatives of the Prefecture pushed for a capacity of 250,000 people, the most reasonable in their eyes to ensure the safety of the public, the athletes and the officials. But the Paris City Council is considering a celebration that is as open and accessible as possible, with at least one million people lining the banks of the Seine.

Jean Castex explained on Monday 15 November, at the end of the inter-ministerial committee, that he had asked the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, to “make proposals with a timetable of the end of 2021 for the opening ceremony, at the latest in June 2022 for all the sites.” No time to lose, then.

As for Tony Estanguet, the president of the Paris 2024 OCOG, he pointed out with a thick line the 13th of December 2021, the date of the next board meeting of the organising committee, to settle the question definitively. In other words, to go ahead with the concept of an opening ceremony of a kind never before seen at the Olympic Games, in the heart of the capital. Or give up for good and move on.