— Published 1 September 2022

For Paris 2024, it will be necessary to optimise

It is not on the map of venues, but a new sport has been invited to the Paris 2024 Games programme: optimisation. With less than two years to go before the opening of the Games, the organising committee and the IOC have seized upon it like a divine mission. With one obsession: staying within the budget.

Pierre-Olivier Beckers, the chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission, explained it over and over again on Wednesday 31 August, at the end of the fifth inspection visit: we will have to optimise. With inflation at 6%, the OCOG will have to look for savings wherever they can be found.

But how? At this stage of the reflection, the answer remains rather vague. Asked at a press conference about the “concrete solutions” to be found and the flexibility that the IOC would be prepared to accept in the specifications to reduce costs, Pierre-Olivier Beckers was vague. “We will be flexible,” he summarised. Before continuing with this formula: “Flexibility is creativity”.

Tony Estanguet, the president of the OCOG, was not much more specific about the nature of the savings to be made to avoid a budget overrun, despite the economic and geopolitical context. “We have asked all of the OCOG’s departments to propose solutions to reduce expenses in the coming weeks,” he explained. The work is therefore underway. The efforts should concern all floors of the Pulse building, the OCOG headquarters in Saint-Denis.

Only Etienne Thobois, the director general of the organising committee, sitting at the end of the table at the press conference, gave the media a few concrete ideas. At the top of the list: transport. “Thanks to the IOC, to the pooling of a certain number of vehicle fleets, and to the compactness of the venues, we are going to reduce the number of vehicles by 30 to 40% compared to the last Games,” explained Etienne Thobois.

The OCOG insists that public transport will be given priority. Will this include IOC members? Nothing is ruled out. Such a novelty would be marginal in terms of savings, but it would have symbolic value. Actions after words.

Another avenue: the sites. Etienne Thobois, again, explained that the OCOG was already working on “marginal gains”, likely to reduce the rental bill for training and competition venues. For the training venues, the organisers are considering staggering their opening, as experience has shown that not all training venues need to be available on the first day. As for the competition venues, the OCOG says it is prepared to take possession of them sometimes later than planned.

The only thing that is certain is that the IOC will not put its hand in its pocket. Pierre-Olivier Beckers assured us without hesitation that there was no question of the Olympic body extending its contribution, which was already increased by 150 million euros a year and a half ago.

Nor, according to the Belgian leader, was there any question of lowering the capacity of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on the Seine. It remains set at 600,000 people. The issue was discussed at length with the new Paris police prefect, Laurent Nuñez, during the visit of the coordination committee. “At no time did we hear any mention of a reduction in the capacity,” admitted Pierre-Olivier Beckers.

A coincidence of timing: the new “Games Optimisation” group, created by the IOC to help the organisers of future editions trim the fat, is due to meet for the first time on Thursday 1 September. Op-ti-mi-ser. The new standard.