— Published 12 July 2022

The battle between FIBA and Paris 2024 continues

The expression does not lack a certain elegance. This Tuesday, July 12, the board of directors of the OCOG Paris 2024 will consider the “review of concept” of the next summer Games. Clearly, the map of the sites, always in the state of project to two years and a little more than two weeks of the three blows.

Worrying? Not in the least, insists the COJO. Tony Estanguet and his team are adamant: each new pencil stroke on the map of the future Olympic and Paralympic sites “strengthens the project“. Cool. They also remind us that badminton and gymnastics have changed their playground less than two years before the London 2012 deadline. More recently, the marathon of Tokyo 2020 was relocated to Sapporo in the final phase of preparation.

Nevertheless, the soap opera is dragging on. Above all, it gives the OCOG the impression of a ship struggling to stay on course.

A file crystallizes all the tensions: the preliminary round of basketball. The episodes follow one another without really moving forward, to the point of turning into a tug of war between the OCOG and the international federation (FIBA), with the IOC in the role of referee, and ultimately the decision-maker.

A few hours before a board of directors meeting where the question will be debated once again, but without being definitively decided, the positions of the two camps are as follows: the OCOG is proposing a basketball/handball exchange, with the first of the two team sports playing its preliminary phase in Lille before returning to Paris, and the second doing the opposite; FIBA wants to remain in the capital, or at worst in the immediate suburbs.

For the OCOG, Lille and its Pierre-Mauroy stadium are the only possible option. “The only one that ticks all the boxes,” insists the organizing committee. It would not increase the budget and would respect the balance of the Games.

An exchange between the two sports will be presented this Tuesday, July 12 to the board of directors. In case of validation, a highly probable scenario, it will then be proposed to the IOC. The OCOG will not submit an alternative.

FIBA, for its part, continues to express doubts about Lille’s ability to host the preliminary round. Its latest card in date: the temperature. The international body fears that the heat will get into the Pierre-Mauroy stadium and threaten the smooth running of the games. It explained this very clearly to the OCOG.

As a good student, the Organizing Committee went back to its notebooks and conducted an investigation. It noted that the last two major indoor team sport events in Lille, the World Volleyball League and EuroBasket in 2015, had taken place without the slightest temperature problem.

A team from Paris 2024 even went to Lille last month, at the height of the heat wave in the last days of spring. They discovered that the temperature was 22.3° on the field when the thermometer was 35° outside.

Better: the COJO ordered a technical study on the possibility of air conditioning the Pierre-Mauroy stadium during the Games. Its conclusions were sent to the FIBA. “They have questions to submit to us“, explains one to Paris 2024.

According to an internal source at the organizing committee, FIBA has never moved to Lille, since the beginning of the discussions, to study on the spot the reality of the site and the conditions of game.

Determined not to make the players travel to the north of France, the international basketball body has even suggested using a hall of the Parc des Expositions de Villepinte, in Seine-Saint-Denis, the last site to be added to the device of Paris 2024. But the option is not retained by the OCOG.

The arm wrestling continues. It will return in fine to the IOC to decide the question. On what date? A mystery. “There is no deadline to make a decision,” says the OCOG.

Elsewhere, fortunately, the grass is greener. The board of directors of Paris 2024 should validate this Tuesday, July 12 the reception in the Hall 8 of the Exhibition center of Villepinte of the preliminary rounds of the boxing (the finales will be disputed in Roland-Garros), of the sitting volleyball, and of the initial event of fencing of the modern pentathlon.

Above all, it should bring to a close the other hot topic on the venue map: shooting. Initially held in La Courneuve, in Seine-Saint-Denis, the discipline will be held in Châteauroux, in the Indre department. All stakeholders have agreed, earlier than expected. The letter of commitment from the local authorities, including the metropolis of Châteauroux, arrived at the OCOG on Monday 11 July.

The last point of discussion concerns the cost of renting the National Shooting Sports Centre (CNTS), owned by the French federation. It would turn around 5 million euros, against 17 million at the beginning of the exchanges. A good deal.