One date chases another for the Paris 2024 OCOG. Sunday 28 August will mark D – 2 years before the opening of the Paralympic Games. The first to be organised in France. A return to Europe twelve years after the success of London 2012. A return also, barring a new pandemic, of the public in the stadiums.
With 24 months to go, the President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), the Brazilian Andrew Parsons, answered FrancsJeux’ questions.
FrancsJeux: With two years to go, are the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games shaping up as you expected and hoped?
Andrew Parsons: Yes. So far I am very happy with the way things are going. The Paris 2024 Games represent a lot of opportunities for the Paralympic movement, with a return to Europe twelve years after London 2012. I really like the ambition of the OCOG for these Games in 2024. It is in line with our own ambition at the IPC to use sport and the Paralympic Games to change the world’s perception of the millions of people with disabilities. I particularly liked the OCOG’s idea of having the same logo for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. I also like the prospect of turning Paris into a huge Paralympic park, with events taking place in some of the capital’s most iconic venues.
What are you most looking forward to about the Paralympic Games?
Paris 2024 can be another step forward for our movement, after London 2012, Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020. These Games have everything it takes to become the sporting event that will forever transform the world’s vision of Paralympic sport and even, beyond that, of the lives of athletes and people with disabilities. Everything is in place to achieve this: Paris, France, the ambition shared by the city and the country to mark their era, the quality of the OCOG, the desire to leave a legacy…
Which decision or initiative taken by the OCOG do you think most closely matches your expectations?
I repeat: its ambition. In Paris, 3.8 million tickets will go on sale for the Paralympic Games, which represents 600,000 more seats than for the London Games in 2012. I also note the common logo. It illustrates the OCOG’s desire to treat the two events on the same level. It shows where the OCOG is today and where it wants to go.
Inflation, and its threat to the Games budget, will force the OCOG to cut back on certain expenses. Are you concerned that this will affect the quality of the Paralympic Games?
Inflation is a reality for everyone, not just the Paris 2024 Games. It is likely to affect all aspects of the Games. We know that. We are prepared for it. But we are also used to dealing with difficult situations. We experienced it with the Rio 2016 Games and then with the Tokyo 2020 Games. We have learned a lot from these two editions. Today, we are able to help the OCOG find creative solutions to reduce costs without affecting the quality of the Games. We will have to work with them on all aspects of the organisation, while keeping the spirit of the Paralympic Games intact.
How far are you prepared to go to reduce costs?
We are open to anything. It’s up to the OCOG to make proposals, we will be flexible and listen to their ideas. We are already working in this direction and we will continue our efforts. We are ready to study all avenues, but we must remain reasonable. And without touching the experience of the athletes.
Do you think France is the right country to organise historic Paralympic Games?
Yes, Paris is everyone’s dream, starting with the athletes. The atmosphere will be fantastic, I have no doubt about that. The level of support from the public authorities is very reassuring. They have understood the opportunity that the Paralympic Games could represent to move forward in a very spectacular way on the issues of inclusion, accessibility and the perception of disability. Tony (Estanguet) is in the right place. The Games have a very good OCOG with excellent leadership. Everyone has understood that sport can play a major role in this post-pandemic period. But to do this, we need to be creative and bring in new ideas. Paris 2024 wants to move in this direction. I like that. For the Paralympics, London 2012 set a new standard. But Paris 2024 can go one step further.
Do you have the same confidence in the French public’s interest in the Paralympics?
Yes, I have no doubt that the French have an appetite for the Paralympic Games. Marie-Amélie Le Fur (the President of the French Paralympic and Sports Committee, editor’s note) is the right person to lead the movement. We are currently working with the OCOG and broadcasters to promote the event. We will help create a real demand for these Games. The energy is going to be incredible. People will realise how much the level of athletes and competitions has increased in recent years. In athletics, for example, some of the winners at the Athens 2004 Games would not even have been finalists last year at Tokyo 2020. We have a great show to offer the public. The French will see it. I am convinced that in 2024, we will be in the right country.