Novak Djokovic said at the beginning of the month during the Dubai tournament that the Paris 2024 Games will be his first goal of the season. “I’m really looking forward to it,” said the world number one, who has only one missing item from his extensive list of achievements: the Olympic title.
There can be no doubt that the tennis tournament at the Paris 2024 Games is shaping up to be one of the most exciting since the sport returned to the programme at the 1988 Games in Seoul.
With less than 500 days to go before the opening of the next Summer Games, FrancsJeux continues its bi-monthly series of interviews with the Organising Committee’s sports managers with Gaël Raison (pictured above), who is in charge of the discipline for the OCOG.
FrancsJeux: What was your life like before the Paris 2024 OCOG?
Gaël Raison: I joined the French Tennis Federation (FFT) in 2007, through refereeing. I’ve been refereeing tennis since I was 14 years old. I’ve gone through all the ranks, at national and international level. Two years ago, I switched to the federation’s events department. At the Paris 2024 OCOG, I occupy a somewhat special position as sports manager, as it was decided to rely on the FFT’s expertise for the organisation of Olympic and Paralympic tennis tournaments. The federation is thus co-organiser with the OCOG, with both parties working hand in hand. I am still employed by the FFT, but have been seconded 100% to the Games since last September.
What is your past experience of the Olympic Games?
It goes back to the Tokyo 2020 Games. I was head referee for the Paralympic wheelchair tennis tournament, appointed by the International Tennis Federation (ITF), but representing France. The experience was necessarily quite special, in the health context, with matches behind closed doors. It gave rise to an even greater expectation that next year in Paris the Games will be “normal”, with the public in the stands.
What do you remember most about the Games?
I am a sports fan from childhood, of all sports. So there is no shortage of Olympic memories, some of which go back a long way. I could spend hours without moving in front of my television. I was marked, for example, by the long jump competition at the Barcelona Games in 1992, between Carl Lewis and Mike Powell, which went down to the last attempt. More recently, the string of medals for French team sports at the Tokyo 2020 Games, with this historic succession of performances in a short space of time, between basketball, volleyball and handball.
The file at the top of the pile on your desk?
Last week we opened the volunteer programme for its first phase, during which we will select the candidates pre-selected by the FFT. The contingent will consist of 250 people who will work around the athletes. They have been “pre-selected”. Now they will press the button and commit to participating in the adventure. This becomes concrete, humanly concrete. Another very important issue is the layout and configuration of the Philippe Chatrier court at Roland Garros. We are working on this issue with the teams in charge of the look of the Games.
The tennis and wheelchair tennis venue: its assets, the challenge in view of the Games?
Having an existing venue, the Roland Garros stadium, is obviously a plus. But the idea is not to make a second Roland Garros. We want to offer something different, by bringing our expertise of the venue and the organisation of a tennis tournament, while respecting the IOC’s vision and high standards. Thanks to SOLIDEO, we will have a second indoor court, the Suzanne-Lenglen. This will bring us a lot of comfort. Two indoor courts is very new for us. An important challenge will be to make a successful transition between tennis and boxing, the finals of which are scheduled to take place at Roland-Garros from Tuesday 6 August. We will have two and a half days for this. However, the tennis will have to finish on Sunday 4 August.
Paris 2024 will be a success for tennis if…
A popular success, great matches, a French medal winner and players who are fully satisfied with their experience. A final between Nadal and Djokovic would be historic. There would be nothing more beautiful. Success for us, the organisers, will also be measured by our ability to put the athletes in the best possible conditions so that they can concentrate exclusively on their sporting performance. For this, everything must be simple, fluid and efficient. Afterwards, on the court, it is the players who write the story.