The Sunday Telegraph

The Olympics are bringing shame on France


IBetween the inevitable traffic jams, the security measures and the polluted water, the Games look set to disappoint

Like many Parisians, I am now looking for a way to be elsewhere during the Games

t’s the QR code that did it for me. I, and everyone living in “Olympic perimeters”, large swathes of Paris where Olympic competitio­ns will take place between July 26 and August 11, will need to acquire an official code, by means still uncertain, and show it at police checks together with national ID if we want to get out of and back into our homes, walk the dog, go shopping, or, heaven forfend, invite friends chez nous.

Paris, ruled since 2010 by a vindictive anti-car red-green coalition, is already a nightmare of traffic jams: add to this the bottleneck­s where bridges will be closed off even to pedestrian­s, and the prospect of this new Forbidden City becomes grandiose. VIPs, of course, should not worry. As in Moscow at the heyday of Communism, there will be specially marked road lanes for officialdo­m, athletes, and superior beings to be chauffeur driven across town. Frankly, like many Parisians, I am now chiefly looking for a way to be elsewhere during the Games.

It’s the security, you see: Mayor Anne Hidalgo, accident-prone Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, and of course President Emmanuel Macron decided, a couple of years back, that the Paris 2024 Games would outdo previous venues and showcase events in some of the city’s most scenic spots.

The opening ceremony is supposed to be one grand flotilla of boats floating down the Seine. Initially supposed to be watched by all alongside the city’s famous Quais, it will now be restricted to about a third of capacity, some 300,000 registered viewers, who again will have to be checked. There will be archery, cycling and athletics in front of the Invalides; basketball, BMX cycling and skateboard on the specially reconfigur­ed Place de la Concorde, which, promises the Mayor, will retain a strangely hemiplegic pedestrian area after the Games, losing the beautiful neo-classical symmetry built by Ange-Jacques Gabriel in 1755. There will be more cycling on the Alexandre III bridge. Each venue will have special bleachers installed for the ticket-paying public.

Access to all of these venues, and more, will need to be secured at a time when the terror threat level, currently set at red, is unlikely to have receded. Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin is trying, and failing, to hide his worry. Elements of the army are to be drafted to help with basic security, which gave rise to grumbles over “using a Ferrari for a school run”. The Polish Defence minister, Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, confirmed two weeks ago that a Polish military contingent will join an “internatio­nal coalition” to help secure the Games.

That’s of course if everything goes to plan. Rashly, both Hidalgo and Macron promised that the notoriousl­y murky waters of the Seine would be swimmable by July, when the triathlon and freshwater races are scheduled to be held at Pont de l’Alma. They forgot that then-Paris mayor Jacques Chirac, a forceful politico whose efficiency was never in doubt, didn’t manage to make good on a vow to swim in the Seine 30 years ago.

So far, only the city’s rats can be seen harmlessly enjoying a muscular swim alongside the lower embankment: measuremen­ts taken only last week by the charity Surfrider show fecal bacteria, E. coli and enterococc­i up to seven times above the allowed amount. There is, in theory, a brand-new Olympic pool built near Saint-Denis; but this, it’s been revealed, has already sprung leaks.

Back in 2015, the five cities vying for the 2024 Olympics were Budapest, Hamburg, Los Angeles, Rome, and Paris. It’s hard to imagine any of the others going through the same, largely self-inflicted travails. France’s glorious Olympics now risk becoming a national humiliatio­n.

 ?? ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom