Pa­ris’s Olym­pic pro­mise

La pro­messe olym­pique de Pa­ris

Vocable (Anglais) - - Édito | Sommaire -

Saint-De­nis es­père un ef­fet JO.

2024 à Pa­ris ! L’ac­cueil des Jeux olym­piques dans la ca­pi­tale fran­çaise fait naître de nou­veaux es­poirs. A Saint-De­nis, dans la ban­lieue nord de Pa­ris, on pro­met de grands in­ves­tis­se­ments : construc­tion du vil­lage olym­pique, d’un centre aqua­tique, créa­tion d’em­plois, de lo­ge­ments… La ville et son dé­par­te­ment peuvent-ils croire à l’ef­fet JO ?

It was a gamble that Pa­ris couldn’t af­ford to lose. Af­ter de­cades of hu­mi­lia­ting fai­lures in bids to host the Olym­pics – in­clu­ding tear­ful­ly lo­sing to Lon­don in 2012 – the French ca­pi­tal has fi­nal­ly won the 2024 Games.

2.The ci­ty is now un­der pres­sure to prove it can de­li­ver its pro­mi­sed new style of or­ga­ni­sing the event: chea­per, gree­ner, with no white-ele­phant buil­ding pro­jects and able to change the for­tunes of lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

3.Lo­cal po­li­ti­cians plea­ded that Pa­ris hos­ting the world’s big­gest spor­ting spec­tacle would res­tore the ci­ty’s pride, bring back the tou­rists who have stayed away af­ter ter­ro­rist at- tacks and re­con­cile the thri­ving ca­pi­tal with its poo­rer, de­pri­ved nor­thern sub­urbs.

4.Pa­ris’s ar­gu­ment was al­so that, af­ter de­cades of overs­pen­ding and waste in other Olym­pic host ci­ties such as Athens and Bar­ce­lo­na, France could do things more ef­fi­cient­ly. Pa­ris al­rea­dy has 95% of the spor­ting fa­ci­li­ties in place and does not need to build a main sta­dium, un­like Lon­don in 2012.


5.But Pa­ris was seen to have lost to Lon­don in 2012 in part be­cause it was too fo­cu­sed on its ci­ty centre while the Bri­tish vaun­ted the re­ge­ne­ra­tion of Strat­ford in east Lon­don. So the fo­cus of the 2024 plan is re­ge­ne­ra­ting SaintDe­nis, the di­verse, dein­dus­tria­li­sed town that nudges up against the north of Pa­ris. 6. Saint-De­nis was pro­mi­sed spor­ting trans­for­ma­tion 20 years ago when the Stade de France was built there for the 1998 foot­ball World Cup, but it still has far hi­gher rates of po­ver­ty and unem­ploy­ment than the ca­pi­tal and suf­fers over­crow­ding on pu­blic trans­port.

7.On­ly a few new Olym­pic ve­nues will be built and these will be most­ly in Saint-De­nis, in­clu­ding a vast aqua­tics fa­ci­li­ty. Po­li­ti­cians pro­mise the pools will then serve re­si­dents in an area where half of pre-teens do not know how to swim.

8.The ath­letes’ vil­lage will al­so be built in Saint-De­nis, near the Ci­ne­ma Ci­ty film stu­dios crea­ted in a di­su­sed po­wer sta­tion by the film-ma­ker Luc Bes­son. Af­ter the Games, the vil­lage will be tur­ned in­to hou­sing. France is keen to move on from its re­pu­ta­tion for buil­ding ghet­to hou­sing es­tates and will al­lo­cate half to so­cial hou­sing and the rest to pri­vate sales. With pri­vate in­ves­tors lea­ding the pro­ject, buil­ding work be­gan be­fore Pa­ris se­cu­red the Games.

9.Va­lé­rie Pe­cresse, the right­wing head of the Île-de-France re­gion out­side Pa­ris, has spo­ken of “re­con­nec­ting” the town of Saint-De­nis. Plans to ex­tend the Pa­ris area’s pu­blic trans­port net­work were in the pi­pe­line be­fore the Olym­pic bid.


10.But al­so at play is the fu­ture of the wi­der Seine-Saint-De­nis dé­par­te­ment, the poo­rest coun­ty in France, which stretches well beyond the town of Saint-De­nis to­wards the de­pri­ved hou­sing es­tates north-east of Pa­ris where the 2005 ur­ban riots be­gan.

11. Laurent Rus­sier, the com­mu­nist mayor of the town of Saint-De­nis, said the Olym­pics were “an op­por­tu­ni­ty to end the bad image that is of­ten stuck to us,” hin­ting at snob­be­ry to­wards the di­verse town where some of the 2015 Pa­ris at­ta­ckers hid out in a slum flat be­fore a po­lice siege. On the night of the Pa­ris at­tacks, the first bom­bers struck out­side the Stade de France.

12.Some fear that the Olym­pic de­ve­lop­ment in SaintDe­nis could lead to gen­tri­fi­ca­tion, for­cing lo­cals out. Pierre Man­sat, an ad­vi­ser to the Pa­ris mayor, Anne Hi­dal­go, told the web­site En­large Your Pa­ris this week: “Elec­ted of­fi­cials in Seine-Saint-De­nis have an ur­ban vi­sion that is suf­fi­cient­ly in­clu­sive and ba­sed on so­li­da­ri­ty to prevent that phe­no­me­non.”

13.The Pa­ris Olym­pics bud­get, at around €6.6bn, is his­to­ri­cal­ly low and al­rea­dy some eco­no­mists say costs are li­ke­ly to rise. Lon­don in 2012, Athens in 2004 and Syd­ney in 2000 all saw their bud­gets for hos­ting the Sum­mer Olym­pics at least double bet­ween the launch of their bids and the fi­nal bill.

14.Pa­ris argues that it will build tem­po­ra­ry sites at key land­marks using eco-ma­te­rials that will keep the car­bon foot­print and cost down. Open-wa­ter and tri­ath­lon swim­ming are plan­ned to be held in the ri­ver Seine af­ter au­tho­ri­ties clean up dir­ty wa­ter­ways. The Grand Pa­lais will host fen­cing and taek­won­do. Tri­ath­lon and ma­ra­thon events will be ba­sed around the Eif­fel To­wer.

15.The French pre­sident, Em­ma­nuel Ma­cron, has said the Olym­pics will be cru­cial for France, des­cri­bing the award of the Games as “a ges­ture that shows that in our long­term bat­tle against ter­ro­rism, we don’t stop big events.”

The pools will then serve re­si­dents in an area where half of pre-teens do not know how to swim.


Chil­dren run­ning with To­ny Es­tan­guet and Pa­trick Bau­mann, Stade de France, Saint-De­nis, 15 May.

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