— Published 21 June 2023

For Paris 2024, two eye-catching investigations

Threat of very heavy weather for the Paris 2024 Games. With 400 days and a few handfuls of hours to go before the opening of the Olympic Games, but also just two weeks after a visit by the IOC Coordination Commission ended with praise worthy of a top of the class, the OCOG is being shaken by the storm.

A double search took place on Tuesday June 20, conducted by the Parquet National Financier (PNF). Investigators went to the COJO’s headquarters, the Pulse building in Saint-Denis, and to that of SOLIDEO, the public establishment in charge of building the permanent sites, in Paris’s 8th arrondissement.

In both cases, the preliminary investigations concern the alleged taking of illegal interest, misappropriation of public funds, favoritism and concealment of favoritism. In short, the PNF suspects the organization of the Paris 2024 Games of corruption.

The searches at the COJO began in the morning. They ended in the evening. The investigators did not leave empty-handed. They took away “documents linked to disputed contracts“, according to a source “close to the case“, quoted by AFP.

The PNF confirmed on Tuesday June 20: two investigations are being conducted in parallel concerning preparations for the Games. The first was opened in 2017. It has been entrusted to the Office central de lutte contre la corruption et les infractions financières et fiscales (OCLCIFF). Investigators are looking into a whole series of contracts awarded by the COJO and, before it, by the bid committee.

The second investigation is more recent, having begun last year. Entrusted to the financial brigade of the Parisian judicial police (BRDE), it concerns several contracts awarded by the COJO and SOLIDEO, including consultancy contracts on several issues linked to the organization of the event.

The name of Edouard Donnelly has come up in conversation. According to a source quoted by AFP, he is the target of one of the two proceedings on suspicion of potential conflicts of interest.

Recruited last year as Executive Director of Operations, one of the key positions on the organizing committee, Edouard Donnelly was previously head of the RNK agency, one of the OCOG’s service providers. Earlier in his career, he had teamed up with Etienne Thobois, the current CEO of the Paris 2024 OCOG, at Keneo.

When questioned on Tuesday June 20, the OCOG assured us that it was never aware of any “wrongdoing“. “We are actively collaborating with the investigators to facilitate their inquiries and provide all the answers to the questions raised as quickly as possible“, it assured. The COJO also recalled that shortly after its creation, it set up an ethics committee, chaired by Jean-Marc Sauvé, honorary vice-president of the Conseil d’État.

In Lausanne, where its Executive Board meeting began on the same day, the IOC also chose to comment on the news of the searches with very smooth words. Christophe Dubi, Executive Director of the Olympic Games, explained that the body was “reassured” to see the OCOG adopt “the only attitude we have the right to expect, which is transparency.”

David Roizen, an expert in sports public policy, told AFP: “It’s not necessarily a surprise. There had already been two alerts, one from the AFA (the French anti-corruption agency) and the other from a former member of the COJO, who was subsequently dismissed. These searches are catastrophic. They’ve just lost their credibility, particularly as regards their duty to set an example. It’s going to stick to them until the Games.”

After the affairs of the Rio 2016 Games, then the corruption scandal linked to the Tokyo 2020 Games, the IOC was hoping to open a new page with a supposedly more virtuous Paris 2024 OCOG, presented as “exemplary“. But the bad series could well continue.