The subject has long been a sensitive one. It even turned into a tug-of-war between the Paris 2024 OCOG and the International Basketball Federation (FIBA). But the controversy has now been laid to rest. In less than 260 days, the Olympic basketball tournament will begin in Lille, 200 km north of Paris, and continue and end in the capital.
At the helm of the organizing committee is Jérôme Rosenstiehl (photo above). FrancsJeux continues its series of interviews with the sports managers of the Paris 2024 OCOG.
FrancsJeux: What was your life like before the COJO Paris 2024?
Jérôme Rosenstiehl: I’m a child of Strasbourg and basketball. I grew up and studied in the Alsatian city. I also played basketball there, a lot and for a long time. Then, for almost twenty years, I took part in the development and growth of SIG Strasbourg, a small local club that had become one of France’s elite, culminating in a European adventure. I worked my way up through the ranks of the club, eventually holding the position of executive director.
What is your past experience of the Olympic Games?
I don’t have any in a professional capacity, having joined the Paris 2024 OCOG after the Tokyo 2020 Games. But I did attend the London 2012 Games as a spectator. I had tickets for gymnastics, basketball and athletics. It was a revelation.
What do you remember most about the Games?
The Barcelona Games in 1992 and the first Dream Team. They made quite an impression. I was stunned. For me, this team of stars, for the first time at the Games, was a founding act. It changed my life and gave direction to my career. When I saw them in front of my television set, I said to myself that I wanted to work in sport and basketball.
The file at the top of the pile on your desk?
A debrief of the test event held last September at Bercy, where gymnastics took place in the first week, followed by the basketball finals in the second, and finally wheelchair basketball at the Paralympic Games. We took advantage of a gymnastics competition to test the transition between the two sports. It will be the shortest of the Olympic Games – just 17 h 45 between the end of gymnastics and the start of the basketball final – but also the most demanding and ambitious, as the two sports are not very close. We also tested Bercy’s accessibility during a wheelchair basketball match. The site is not used to this discipline, so we had to test the flow of players. We also made the toilets accessible.
Basketball venues: what are their strengths and challenges in the run-up to the Games?
With the Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille in the first week, for the group phase, and Bercy in the second, for the decisive matches, we have two very fine venues at our disposal. Playing in Lille is an opportunity. The stadium has hosted some of the biggest sporting events in France, including EuroBasket in 2015, the Davis Cup final in 2018, and more recently matches in the Rugby World Cup. The North is a land of basketball. Bercy, meanwhile, remains the Mecca of French sports arenas. The NBA came here this year. Between Lille and its 30,000 seats, then Bercy, the combination of the two will bring us close to the attendance figures for the Atlanta Games in 1996. In Lille, the athletes’ village is currently under construction. Located in Villeneuve d’Ascq, in a huge park around the stadium, it will become a student residence and will remain a legacy of the Games.
Paris 2024 will be a success for basketball if…
The Paris 2024 Games are already a success in their approach. They offer a new logic and an innovative, more responsible approach, focused on the legacy. I’m convinced that we’re going to deliver an event of incredible quality and fervor. In terms of quality of play, we’re going to reach new heights. The best players in the world will be there. The Americans are preparing an historic team – LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry… – France will be out for revenge, Serbia promises to be very strong, South Sudan will be one of the curiosities… For the Paralympic Games, the wheelchair basketball tournament will feature a new format, with fewer teams – just eight – for both men and women. We’ll really have the best.