— Published 20 January 2023

“The atmosphere should be exceptional”.

A preliminary round in Paris, then a final phase at the Pierre-Mauroy Stadium in Lille. Two Olympic titles to defend for the French teams. An exceptional atmosphere is expected. At the Paris 2024 Games, handball is one of the most eagerly awaited team sports of the Olympic fortnight.

At the helm of the discipline, within the organizing committee, Camille Guichard (photo above, at the Tokyo 2020 Games). FrancsJeux continues its series of interviews with the sports managers of the Paris 2024 OCOG.

FrancsJeux: What was your life like before the Paris 2024 OCOG?

Camille Guichard: I worked for two years, in 2020 and 2021, at the International Handball Federation (IHF) in Basel, Switzerland. I was in charge of the organisation of competitions for international events. My previous experience was quite similar, as I was in charge of international competitions at the French Handball Federation (FFH), including the Men’s World Cup in 2017 and the Women’s Euro the following year. I worked on these two events within the organising committee and an agency, with a passage through the Women’s Handball League.

What is your past experience of the Olympic Games?

It goes back to the Tokyo 2020 Games, where I was sent by the international federation. I was on site, in the Yoyogi hall. Before the event, my role was mainly to support the national federations of the qualifying countries, particularly for the registration of players. Once the Games started, I worked with the Japanese on the logistical and operational organisation of the two tournaments.

What is your favourite memory of the Games?

France’s two gold medals at the Tokyo Games, in the men’s and women’s categories. Hearing the Marseillaise played two days in a row in the handball hall was very moving. I was lucky enough to be present for these two podiums. It was a very strong and memorable moment. Younger, but in front of my TV, the gold medal at the London 2012 Games of the French men’s team, when all the players posed for the photo imitating Usain Bolt’s gestures.

The top file on your desk?

The transition and transfer between the Paris site for the preliminary phase and the Lille site from the quarter-finals onwards. This will concern the players, of course, but also the referees, the staff, the international federation, the officials… In Paris, the competition will end on 4 August after 10 pm. It will resume on the morning of the following day, at 9.30 am, for the first match at the Pierre-Mauroy Stadium in Villeneuve d’Ascq. The transfer and transition day promises to be intense, with very careful planning of a large number of issues, including teams, volunteers, but also the technical aspect of the venues.

The two handball venues in Paris and Lille: their assets, the challenges in view of the Games?

They are very different from each other. In Paris, the Arena Sud at the Parc des Expositions de la Porte de Versailles will have an exceptional location, shared with two other sports, table tennis and volleyball. It promises to be a great party. But everything will have to be installed, because the hall is an empty shell, and everything will have to be brought in. It will also be necessary to share the needs and technical elements with the two other sports that will follow on the same site, weightlifting at the Olympic Games, then goalball at the Paralympic Games. The Pierre-Mauroy stadium in Lille presents a completely different setting. With its 27,000 seats, the atmosphere should be exceptional. It has already been used for the men’s World Handball Championship in 2017. The page is therefore not blank. Its facilities are of a very high standard, everything is well distributed and perfectly thought out. But the pitch will not be at the same height as the corridors and changing rooms, because the stadium is designed in a football configuration.

Paris 2024 will be a success for handball if…

From a sporting point of view, it would be ideal to live again a scenario comparable to that of the Tokyo 2020 Games, with two gold medals for France. But the bar is set very high. The Games will also be a success if we can offer a great popular celebration with a strong legacy. Finally, I would like everyone involved to finish the event with a smile on their face, full of emotion and proud to have taken part in a competition that began on the eve of the opening ceremony on 25 July and ended on the closing day, Sunday 10 August.