Tony Estanguet, its president, likes to emphasize that the Paris 2024 OCOG is proceeding in stages. One step at a time. On Friday June 23, it will unveil the route of the Olympic flame in the solemn setting of the Sorbonne. On Tuesday May 30, it ticked off a previous line on its roadmap by announcing the details and procedures for selecting the torchbearers.
Unsurprisingly, the OCOG is breaking new ground. As usual. But this time, the novelty lies more in the form than in the content. It comes down to a few tweaks. Next year, the torchbearers of the Olympic Torch Relay – scheduled to run between Marseille and Paris between May 8 and July 26 – will bear the boy-scout name of “forerunners“.
There will be 10,000 torchbearers for the Olympic Games, then a thousand for the Paralympic Games, where the relay will start in Stoke-Mandeville, England, and last just a few days.
The second novelty, more real but already announced by the OCOG, is that the torch relay route will be open to collective relays. There will be 125 such relays along the entire route, an average of two per day. Each relay will comprise 24 runners, carefully arranged in a pack around and behind a single torchbearer. Half of these collective relays will be made up of the French sporting movement, including the 34 Olympic and Paralympic sports federations involved in the Games.
The math is easy: 7,000 Olympic “forerunners” will be chosen as individuals, with the remaining 3,000 selected for a collective relay. On average, a relay will cover 200 m, i.e. no more than 4 minutes of what is presumed to be an unforgettable moment in life.
The Olympic and Paralympic torches will be carried by four ambassadors. The Paris 2024 OCOG has given them the name, and the armband, of “relay captains“. Four leaders, but only three families: former swimmers Laure and Florent Manaudou, para triathlete Mona Francis, para long jumper Dimitri Pavadé.
For the rest, the Paris 2024 plan is fairly conventional. The contingent of 11,000 torchbearers will have to reflect gender parity, diversity and a balance between generations (minimum age, 15 at the time of selection). It will also have to make room for people with disabilities. And it will accept candidates from abroad.
Selection? Balanced, too. As Tony Estanguet explained, the Paris 2024 OCOG has multiplied the criteria, with the aim of satisfying as many people as possible and leaving no one out. The exercise led it to divide the cake into three thick slices, but not necessarily of the same size: the sporting movement (well-known and anonymous athletes, coaches, managers…), the associative fabric, the territories (craftsmen, artists, local personalities…).
Balance, too, in the recruitment of “forerunners“. The two official sponsors of the torch relay – Coca-Cola and the BPCE banking group – will be able to choose around 30% of the torchbearers. The Paris 2024 OCOG and its “stakeholders” (State, Ile-de-France region, City of Paris, IOC, etc.) will select around the same number. The organizing committee’s private partners will enjoy identical privileges. Finally, the remaining 10% – a good thousand people – will be proposed by the 64 territories through which the relay will pass.
The money? When asked about the budget for the operation, Tony Estanguet replied with the same formula he’s used many times before: “We don’t communicate on these figures”. But he reiterated that two-thirds of the costs of the torch relay route are covered by the COJO, thanks to its private partners. The remaining third is covered by the territories it passes through, at a rate of 150,000 euros (excluding VAT) per département.
Finally, a clarification from Delphine Moulin, the COJO Paris 2024’s Director of Celebrations: it will not be possible for “forerunners” to buy a torch once they have completed their relay. The reason for this is in line with the organizers’ sustainability approach: torch production will be reduced to the bare essentials.