— Published 27 March 2023

“We can’t expect the impossible from the host cities”.

The planets are aligning. For the organizers of the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France and the Paris 2024 Games, the countdown has moved from the distant future to the near future. A little more than five months for the world meeting of the oval ball, less than 500 days for the Olympic and Paralympic event.

In the host cities, the pace is accelerating at the same rhythm. Without a moment’s pause. Grouped together in an association, Territoires d’événements sportifs (TES), they held their board meeting on Friday 24 March. On this occasion, their president, Mathieu Hanotin, mayor of Saint-Denis and president of Plaine Commune, answered questions from FrancsJeux.

FrancsJeux: The city of Paris recently announced the installation of a Rugby Village during the 2023 World Cup. Will all host cities adopt the same model?

Mathieu Hanotin: Yes. The model may differ from one city to another, because the reality of the World Cup will not be the same between Saint-Denis and Nantes, for example. But the principle of a fan zone organized like a rugby village (photo above) has been adopted by the ten host cities. It will sometimes be open only on match days, but the idea is to offer entertainment outside the stadium and to accompany the French team’s journey. In Saint-Denis, it will be installed at the foot of the Basilica and will remain open from the first to the last day of the tournament. For the cities, this represents a significant cost, especially since they can no longer rely on the tax on shows. However, after negotiations, we have obtained a subsidy of 100,000 euros per host city from the GIP France 2023 (the Rugby World Cup organizing committee) and the possibility of local partnerships from World Rugby.

The idea of rugby markets, designed to take advantage of the 2023 World Cup to promote local products, was also mentioned for a while. Has this idea been abandoned?

No. The idea was brought up by Claude Atcher, the former general manager of France 2023, but it was put on hold because it was first imagined near the stadiums, a formula that did not work. We reactivated it with the GIP France 2023 and the Ministry of Agriculture. But it was decided to integrate these markets into the Rugby Villages. On the opening days, a range of local products will be offered to supporters, in a sales and tasting area that can range from 180 to 540 m2. These rugby markets will promote organic agriculture and French know-how, particularly to foreign visitors. A state subsidy of 2 million euros has been allocated to this scheme, i.e. 200,000 euros per host city.

There is now a lot of talk about legacy in the organization of major sporting events. How will the host cities of the 2023 Rugby World Cup benefit from this?

This is a key question. It was the subject of discussions very early on in the tournament. We tried to explain to the State the need to materialize an immediate legacy, without waiting for the spin-offs of the tournament. The World Cup will create a dynamic around rugby. The clubs will have to be able to welcome young people interested in taking out a license. If not, we will miss something. We have obtained a subsidy of 224,000 euros in advance per host city. It will be paid out in the first half of 2023, before the World Cup even begins. It will be able to finance equipment projects: construction of new fields, change to synthetic turf, installation of a weight room… It remains to agree on the exact perimeter of the distribution of the profits after the tournament. A proportion of 70% will go to the French Rugby Federation (FFR), 30% will go to all the communities.

Let’s move on to the Paris 2024 Games. Are you satisfied with the ticketing offer proposed by the OCOG to the event’s host cities?

On this question, we must distinguish between theory and practice. The copy presented by Paris 2024, with half of the tickets at 50 euros or less, and a large volume of tickets at 24 euros, was very satisfactory. I have never found it abnormal that some tickets are very expensive. In addition, we obtained the implementation of a social ticketing system, financed by the Paris 2024 OCOG endowment fund, and a territorial ticketing system, which allows the host cities to buy tickets at their face value. In Saint-Denis, for example, we will be able to allow thousands of residents to attend a Games event. But the reality proved more difficult for the cities where the competition sites have smaller spectator gauges. Some of my elected colleagues were not at all satisfied with what was offered to them. We have to raise our voices. But we will find an agreement. We are working on it.

You have regularly denounced, in your capacity as mayor of Saint-Denis and president of TES, the “hidden costs” of the Paris 2024 Games. What are they?

It is necessary to understand that the COJO is in charge of all that is inside the sites, and with the State of the safety of the device. But the rest is the responsibility of the communities. The signage or the look, for example, from a public transport to the Olympic site. All the animation in town, also. The necessarily additional maintenance of the public space. Some of these costs are sometimes identified, others are not. For this reason, we have disagreements with the OCOG and with the State. Of course, we are very happy to welcome the Games. The cities will benefit from it, in particular in terms of influence. We are very committed to their success, since the first day. And we will be it until the end. But we cannot always ask the impossible to the host cities.