The project seemed crazy, its implementation perilous and its feasibility uncertain. Today it is a reality. On Friday 26 July 2024, the opening ceremony of the Paris Olympic Games will leave the stadium. A first in the history of the event. It will take place on a river, the Seine. Another first. It will be partly free, accessible to 600,000 spectators. Another first.
With less than 1,000 days to go before the event, the board of directors of the Paris 2024 OCOG adopted the principle, the concept and the main lines on Monday 13 December. It also validated the sharing of responsibilities between the various players.
The result is already making us salivate. But it has been a long and tortuous road to “align” all the parties concerned. Security, in particular, has long made the representatives of the Paris Police Prefecture wince. Thierry Reboul, the executive director of the Brand, Events and Ceremonies organising committee, admits that it took about fifty meetings to get everyone to agree.
It all started at the beginning of 2019. Thierry Reboul’s team worked on the idea of an opening ceremony outside the stadium, in the middle of the city. Very quickly, the Seine appeared to be the best place for this. “For almost two years, until the end of 2020, we put ideas on paper, working on visuals,” says Thierry Reboul. Everything was studied, analysed and costed. The river was mapped along its entire length in Paris, to ensure that the project was feasible.
What’s next? The year 2021 was essentially devoted to regularly bringing together all the potential players in this Olympic challenge, until an agreement was reached this autumn on the concept, its figures and its conditions. These were presented on Monday 13 December to the Board of Directors of the Paris 2024 OCOG. The project is no longer a project. It has entered the history books.
The result is now in about fifteen visuals, presented on Monday to the board of directors. They leave a lot to the imagination. But the main lines of the evening are now known:
The athletes will parade on the Seine on more than 160 boats, from east to west, on a 6 km route between the Austerlitz bridge and the Iéna bridge. A 3 km boat zone is planned upstream of the parade. At the end of the route, the same distance will allow them to disembark to reach the Trocadero esplanade, where the ceremonial part will take place (speeches and oaths, parade of the flag, lighting of the flame…). A major novelty: the athletes’ parade will open the ceremony. Competitors will therefore be able to watch the whole show, or even escape from it and reach the Olympic Village early enough, if the event takes place the next day.
Spectators will be able to watch the ceremony from the banks of the Seine. Two distinct zones are planned: the lower quays, closest to the river, where paying ticket holders will be seated; and the upper quays, one row above, which will be accessible to the greatest number of people free of charge. In total, the public should number 600,000 people, i.e. 10 times the capacity of the Stade de France in opening ceremony configuration.
- The show will take place on the water, with the artists taking place on a dozen barges to tell the story of France and Paris, mixing the past and the present. But it will also be more fixed. The eight to ten bridges along the route will be used as “balconies on the water” to showcase artistic sequences and sports demonstrations. No less than 80 giant screens will be installed along the 6 km of the walkway. The quays will be fully equipped with sound. The monuments of Paris will also be used to enter into history, in the manner of a sound and light show, with a projection of holograms on the buildings. Thierry Reboul explains: “We will be thinking in several dimensions, with water, air, the roofs of Paris…”.
- The opening ceremony is expected to last three and a half hours, including an hour for the artistic and sporting show. Despite its originality and unprecedented conditions, there will be no limit to the number of athletes on parade. Delegations will be able to march in their entirety.