— Published 13 July 2023

In Marseille, Paris 2024 is already setting sail

A coincidence of timing, but an illustration of a desire to push back the boundaries: the first test event of the Paris 2024 Games is taking place far from the French capital. The pre-Olympic sailing event has been in Marseille harbour since Sunday 9 July. It is due to last eight days.

Sporting stakes, organisation, venue, competition conditions… Guillaume Chiellino, National Technical Director of the French Sailing Federation (FFV), talks to FrancsJeux about a test event that heralds several others over the coming weeks.

The test event. “We are both very happy and very proud to have been chosen, as we were at the Rio 2016 Games, as the first pre-Olympic event. The competition lasts eight days, slightly less than next year at the Games, where the programme provides for twelve days, with a greater number of reserve days. But for the rest, it’s a real dress rehearsal, with the 10 Olympic classes – four men’s, four women’s and two mixed – and, as at the Games, just one representative per country and per discipline. The timetable for the test event is identical to the one we will have next year. The number of athletes is slightly higher, 350 for this pre-Olympic event, compared with 330 at the Games. The organisers are testing everything except the ticketing, as this year’s competition will be held without paying spectators.”

The harbour of Marseille. “It’s magnificent. The images of the Games will be extraordinary. Sailing will really come into its own. The competitions will take place in the southern harbour, between the Corniche and the Pointe Rouge. It’s quite enclosed, with a mountain range behind and the Frioul Islands opposite. The water has a slight current. Above all, it can offer athletes all kinds of wind conditions, which vary depending on the day and the location: a thermal breeze, a south-easterly wind that can blow at up to 20 knots, and the famous Marseille Mistral. The athletes will have to adapt, be reactive and use strategy. We know this bay well. The French team spent a lot of time here last May and June. We’ll be coming back to it very often before the Games, because knowledge of a body of water and its conditions is often a decisive factor in performance.”

The Olympic site. “Five buildings are planned for the marina. Three of them have already been delivered. The other two, on which work was halted for the test event, are 50% complete. For the site as a whole, 20 to 25% of the work remains to be done. The OCOG is well on schedule. The foreign delegations have been able to verify this since the start of the competition: the preparations are well ahead of what we have seen at some recent Games. For the athletes, the experience promises to be quite extraordinary as, for the first time since Beijing 2008, they will be accommodated on site. The Olympic Village will be located in a hotel, just a few hundred metres from the boats. The athletes will be able to walk to the marina. Spectators should also enjoy an exceptional experience. The marina’s location will allow the public to follow the regattas free of charge from the corniche, in addition to ticket holders who are closer to the action. With five foiling disciplines, the show promises to be grandiose. The idea will be to explain everything that happens on the water to the public in the best possible way. For us, these Games could be a unique opportunity to get people interested in sailing.”

The sporting stakes. “Sailing is one of the sports – around a third of the programme – where the host country is guaranteed a quota in all disciplines. The French team will therefore be fully booked next year, ten out of ten, as it often does at the Olympic Games. We won’t be under any pressure to win the quotas, but playing at the Games on home soil brings with it other points of attention, in particular a greater media presence and higher expectations. For us, things are clear: the test event in Marseille is the major objective of the season, the number one event.”