A major first next year at the Paris 2024 Games: the Olympic and Paralympic shooting events will be contested far from the capital. Initially planned for Seine-Saint-Denis, the competition venue has been relocated to Châteauroux, a three-hour drive south of Paris.
Proposed to the IOC last year as an alternative to the original La Courneuve site, the National Shooting Sports Center (CNTS) in Châteauroux was approved by the IOC Executive Board last September. Less than a year away from the Games.
At the helm of the discipline for the Paris 2024 OCOG is Englishman Peter Underhill (photo above). FrancsJeux continues its series of interviews with the sports managers of the organizing committee.
FrancsJeux: What was your life like before the Paris 2024 OCOG?
Peter Underhill: Before my career in sport, I was an officer in the British Army for over three decades. I shot in both Olympic and military disciplines, but never reached the highest level. After finishing my career as an officer, I joined the London Games Organizing Committee as shooting manager. I held the same position for the Tokyo 2020 Games. In the meantime, I was a technical official at the Rio 2016 Games. I was also sport manager for shooting at three editions of the Commonwealth Games, Glasgow 2014, Gold Coast 2018 and Birmingham 2022.
Your past experience of the Olympic Games?
I’ve experienced the last three Summer Games from the inside. London 2012 and Tokyo 2020 as part of the organizing committee, as sport manager for my discipline. Rio 2016 for the International Shooting Federation (ISSF), as a technical official. I was also present at the Beijing 2008 Games, as an observer, as part of my role on the London Games organizing committee.
An outstanding memory of the Games?
The first gold medal of the London 2012 Olympic Games. As always, it was awarded on the shooting range, early in the day, the day after the opening ceremony. It went to Yi Siling of China in the 10 m rifle. The shooting site was temporary, but it was fantastic. Very futuristic. The public turned out in droves. Media attention was focused on us for this first Games title. For me, this gold medal was the culmination of all my years of work on the organizing committee.
What’s at the top of the pile on your desk?
Preparing the competition site at the Centre national de tir sportif (CNTS) in Châteauroux. The complex is of the highest quality, particularly from a technical point of view. It meets international competition standards. But it needs to be turned into an Olympic venue, with all the requirements needed for the event. It has to be dressed up as an Olympic venue. It’s a big job. It’s been my priority for several months. But we have the right people to rise to the challenge. When I joined the OCOG, the shooting events were still planned for La Courneuve, in Seine-Saint-Denis. Six or seven months after my arrival, it was decided to move them to Châteauroux. The challenge was immense: to start from almost nothing and accomplish in a few months what usually takes several years. But today, we’re on the right track.
The shooting venue: its assets and challenges in the run-up to the Games?
The main challenge is to provide accommodation for the shooters, their entourage and the officials. For the first time at the Games, shooting will use a satellite village. Despite their distance from Paris, the athletes must be able to enjoy the best possible Games experience. They need to feel part of the event. Teams will have a choice of three accommodation options: a soccer academy close to the shooting range entrance, an international school close by, or rooms in hotels reserved for the Games. For the competition site itself, the “finals” building for indoor events will accommodate 650 people. In addition, we’ll be installing a 2,500 to 3,000-seat outdoor area for live coverage of the competitions on a giant screen.
Paris 2024 will be a success for shooting if…
The Games will be a success if we manage to satisfy the athletes, the public and the media. To engage everyone in the same momentum. For a sport like shooting, the Olympic Games represent a unique opportunity, once every four years, to benefit from large-scale exposure. We need to offer a top-quality sporting presentation, as we did at the London Games in 2012. The Châteauroux site will be the perfect platform to achieve this. It’s up to us to place the athletes in the best possible conditions. They have to be happy to be competing. A happy athlete is often a high-performance athlete.