— Published 27 July 2022

“For Paris 2024, we will be able to offer a unique experience”

They are the men and women behind the scenes. But the sporting success of the Paris 2024 Games will owe them a lot. Two years before the opening, FrancsJeux starts a portrait gallery of the sport managers of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in France. Former champions or lesser-known experts, French or foreign, they are at the helm of the sports disciplines, official or additional. First episode of a bi-monthly series: the French Pascale Bouton, sport manager of rowing.

FrancsJeux: Your life before the Paris 2024 OCOG?

Pascale Bouton: I was assistant DTN at the French Rowing Federation (FFA), in charge of the high level. I had been in this position since January 2000, after joining the federation in September 1992.

 Your past experience of the Olympic Games?

I have participated in six consecutive Olympic Games with French rowing, as team leader. Debut in Sydney in 2000, then Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, London 2012, Rio 2016, and finally Tokyo 2020.

What do you remember most about the Games?

A rowing memory, first of all, the two gold medals of the French team at the Sydney Games in 2000. More particularly the exceptional race of the two coxless formed by Jean-Christophe Rolland and Michel Andrieux. A race of anthology. It has remained in the memories. I also have a vivid memory of the final of the women’s 400 m at the same Sydney 2000 Games. I had done everything possible to get a place and be in the stadium. I learned the day before the final that Marie-José Pérec had withdrawn. But the race was extraordinary, with the victory of Cathy Freeman in an atmosphere so full of emotion. I was not in my discipline, but I will never forget.

The top file on your desk?

Volunteer recruitment. I’m working on this with the French Rowing Federation. They are currently identifying volunteers specific to our sport, according to precise specifications. Their recruitment will start in September.

The rowing competition venue at Vaires-sur-Marne: its assets, its challenge in the perspective of the Games?

A magnificent site. A real green lung in the region. It is intended for high-level rowing, but is also open to the public for leisure and walking. Few rowing competition venues offer this duality. The Vaires-sur-Marne basin had already hosted major competitions, including the 1991 World Canoeing Championships and a stage of the World Rowing Cup the following year. But in its new Olympic configuration, it was inaugurated in 2019. Before the Games, the World Junior Rowing Championships in 2023 will serve to test the facilities. The challenge? Bringing together rowing, slalom canoeing and sprint canoeing on the same site. The three disciplines will be very close to each other and will share the venue. This is a challenge, especially from a logistical point of view, but also an asset because Vaires-sur-Marne will be in the spirit of the Olympic Games, with the athletes sharing their experiences. We plan to install the athletes’ lounge on the roof of the main building, with a 360° view of the entire site. A first for the Olympic Games.

Paris 2024 will be a success for rowing if…

If we see great competitions that meet the expectations of the athletes. The Games will also be successful if the spectator experience is up to par. The capacity of the Vaires-sur-Marne venue is 24,000 spectators for rowing and 12,000 for slalom. We will have to manage the flow. But with such a configuration, we will be able to offer the public a unique experience, a whole day of rowing and canoeing at Vaires-sur-Marne.