It was an important step. In terms of both size and players. On Monday July 17, the Paris 2024 OCOG brought the curtain down on the seminar for Olympic Games mission leaders. Starting on Friday July 14, it brought together over 350 people, including representatives from nearly 200 foreign countries.
On the program: a long series of presentations on the major organizational issues, including transport, security and logistics, as well as a tour of the village and competition venues.
Convincing? Salvator Bigirimana (photo below, left), Burundi’s mission leader, answered FrancsJeux‘s questions.
FrancsJeux: With one year to go and only a few days to go, do you feel that the Paris 2024 OCOG is on schedule?
Salvator Bigirimana: Yes, all the signs are green. We already had this impression last month, during a presentation made at the general assembly of the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa in Hammamet, Tunisia. It was confirmed at the seminar for heads of mission. We had questions, which the OCOG answered very clearly. At the aquatic center, which we visited during the Games, the engineers told us that the site will be delivered in March. This isn’t my first Games, having started in London in 2012. But I can say today that preparations are going very well. My fellow mission leaders share the same opinion. The OCOG team is very experienced. Over the past few days, I’ve come across people I met on the organizing committees of the London 2012, Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020 Games.
Did you have any specific questions that you wanted the OCOG to answer?
The visa issue. In Burundi, it concerns us directly. We were told that a circular had been sent to all French embassies abroad to facilitate our procedures. We really noticed that links had been established with foreign countries via the embassies. Another, less expected, question concerned arrival at the airport in Paris. We had to wait a very long time at customs, around 2 hours 30 minutes, before we could get through. We raised the issue. We were told that a terminal at Roissy airport was currently under construction, and therefore closed. It will be open next year during the Games. Arrival should be smoother.
Part of Europe, including France, has been hit by very hot weather. Is this a concern in the run-up to the Games?
We were given highly technical explanations of how the buildings in the Athletes’ Village, in particular, have been designed to reduce the impact of the heat without the need for air conditioning. Thanks to the materials used and the ventilation system installed, it will be between 21 and 23° inside when the thermometer reads 32° outside. What’s more, air conditioning will be available if required. The OCOG has also scheduled some sessions late into the evening, in boxing for example, to avoid the heat.
The issue of transportation is also regularly cited as a cause for concern…
She is. She always is at the Olympics. But that doesn’t worry me. The venue map is tight. Transportation should be fairly fluid.
Another area of uncertainty: security. Do you fear that the Games could be disrupted by a tense social climate, or even riots of the kind France has seen in recent weeks?
Not really, no. The issue was discussed at length during the seminar. We had presentations from government officials, including a representative from the Ministry of the Interior. A large number of people will be mobilized, including the police and the army. The recent riots were mentioned, but I am confident that the Games will not be disrupted. In saying that, I think I’m echoing what my colleagues in other countries are thinking.
Do you think the opening ceremony on the Seine is a good idea?
Yes. It promises to be a unique experience, so everyone will want to experience it. I think all the delegations will be eager to discover and experience it from the inside.
During the mission leader seminar, which aspects of the preparations for the Games impressed you the most?
The dynamism of the organizing committee. And the fact that the IOC teams are in complete agreement with those of the OCOG. This wasn’t necessarily the case at previous editions.
On the other hand, what did you find most negative?
The wait on arrival at the airport. If we’d been accompanied by the young athletes, as we will be next year for the Games, it wouldn’t have been possible. But we did get some answers.