Tony Estanguet knows this, having participated as a competitor in four editions of the Summer Games: Olympic success is prepared and built long before the day of the competition. In the pre-Olympic year, in particular.
With 548 days to go before the opening of the Paris 2024 Games, the OCOG president faced the press on Wednesday 25 January for a greetings ceremony that had the appearance of an explanation of the text. Dressed “cool” in a white T-shirt and tennis shoes, Tony Estanguet ran through the 2023 schedule for nearly an hour. Before answering journalists’ questions in the company of Etienne Thobois, the OCOG’s general manager.
What should we remember? Several things, some known, others a little less so.
A year without a break. The calendar displayed by Tony Estanguet for the year 2023 speaks volumes: the twelve months before switching to an Olympic year will not be a smooth ride for the OCOG’s teams, which have now passed the one thousand employee mark (with 40 nationalities represented). No less than 16 “highlights” have been identified between 1 February, when the Paralympic Games event calendar was revealed, and the end of October, when the OCOG will organise its second Paralympic Day and launch the Paralympic Games ticketing. In the meantime, there is still a slightly unbalanced mix between sport – test events between July and October – and the more organisational preparations (unveiling of the pictograms and the look of the Games in February, the torch relay in May, opening of the volunteer recruitment portal in March, phases 1 and 2 of the ticketing in February and May).
An increased marketing objective. The announcement of a new premium partner – the luxury group LVMH – is still pending. But Tony Estanguet said on Wednesday 25 January that he was “very calm” about the revenue prospects of the national marketing programme. The proof is in the figures: the objective was revised upwards at the end of last year. It is now set at 1.226 billion euros, compared to 1.100 billion in the initial plan. The President of the OCOG announced it as a certainty: 92% of this sum will be in the OCOG’s coffers by the end of 2023. Then there will be the few months before the Games to complete the deal.
Three formats for the test events. The Games are changing. And with them, the organisation of the traditional pre-Olympic events. The OCOG is jumping on the bandwagon launched by the Japanese for the Tokyo 2020 Games, but giving it a boost. Not all disciplines will be entitled to an old-fashioned test event, with competitors, officials and event rankings. For many disciplines – such as eventing, judo, gymnastics, fencing, weightlifting, golf, surfing and table tennis – the OCOG will test its teams and facilities without athletes. This less expensive format will be used to test the delicate transitions at venues hosting multiple sports. For the rest, the year 2023 will feature three test events organised by the OCOG itself – sailing in Marseille from 9 to 16 July, triathlon in Paris from 17 to 20 August, and mountain biking in Elancourt on 24 September – plus five others scheduled as part of competitions organised by an international federation: rowing from 2 to 6 August in Vaires-sur-Marne, marathon swimming in Paris (Pont Alexandre III) from 4 to 6 August, archery also in Paris (Invalides) from 17 to 20 August, canoe-kayak in line in Vaires-sur-Marne from 31 August to 1 September, canoe-kayak slalom also in Vaires-sur-Marne from 5 to 8 October.
A ticket office in full swing. The figure is not definitive, but it looks good: Tony Estanguet announced that the registration phase of the draw for the sale of the first tickets for the Olympic Games in packs had registered 2.5 million applicants. It ends on 31 January. With 3 million tickets being offered in three-packs, it is already clear that not all applicants will be served. The second stage of the rocket, single tickets, will be launched on 11 May. It will also be preceded by an entry into a draw between 15 March and 21 April.
A relay of the flame in about sixty departments. Tony Estanguet explained, in response to a question from FrancsJeux: to date, some sixty departments have signed an agreement with the OCOG to receive the torch relay. This number should not vary much in the coming weeks, as the final route will be revealed in May. “This result is higher than what we had planned in the bid file,” explained the OCOG president. The torch relay should therefore visit just over half of the possible territories between spring and summer 2024, as France has 101 departments, including five overseas.