The Opening Ceremony of the Paris 2024 Summer Olympic Games is just over a year away, and preparations for the biggest sporting event in the world are well underway in the City of Light. An official countdown clock has been installed near the base of the Eiffel Tower, and more and more Paris 2024 logos are appearing around town each day. Living in an Olympic city is a singularly unique experience. But it is also an experience that is not without its ups and downs. As we head into the final countdown to Paris 2024, I thought I would take a look at the mixed bag of headlines these Games have generated in recent weeks. Both the good and the bad.
Anticipation is High
Depending on which poll you believe, anywhere from 60% – 72% of the people in France support Paris hosting the Summer Olympics next year. Which are incredibly high numbers considering all the factors working against these Games. Many people believe that the Olympics will boost France’s image as a tourist destination and increase the country’s economic activity. But many people are also concerned about the operating budget for the Games and how it keeps rising. To that end, it’s possible that those concerns were mitigated somewhat by the recent announcement of 22 new sponsors that have been secured since the start of the year, amounting to over a billion euros in revenue. But regardless, the polls indicate that people in France in general are excited for Paris 2024. It will be interesting to see if that changes in the coming year.
The Call for Volunteers
One area where enthusiasm is certainly not lacking is the volunteer department. The organizing committee estimates that the Games will require approximately 45,000 volunteers to run smoothly. A call was put out earlier this year for candidates, and over 300,000 people responded. 300,000! That’s an extraordinary number, with candidates apparently coming from all over Europe. The 45,000 who are ultimately selected could go a long way in making these Games a truly international affair.
It’s Time to Celebrate
The Paris 2024 motto is “Games Wide Open”, meaning organizers want these Olympics to be as accessible as possible for everyone in France. I wouldn’t say that the ticket prices for the actual sporting events reflect this. But there are countless other events being held all over the country in the lead up to the Games, many of which are free to attend. Festivities will be held daily at Champions Park at Trocadéro, while nearly a million people are expected to watch the Games live at Club France at the Parc de la Villette. Across the country, over 200 celebration sites will host events between May 8th (start of the torch relay) and September 8th (closing ceremony of the Paralymic Games). It’s going to be one big party and everyone’s invited.
It should come as no surprise that the Olympics can be a logistical nightmare. Approximately 85,000 athletes, coaches, and other accredited officials are expected to arrive in Paris next summer. Which is actually nothing compared to the hundreds of thousands of travellers who pass through the Paris airports each day during peak travel times. What’s different about these 85,000 travellers is the luggage they will be bringing with them. Every sort of specialized sport equipment in the world will be passing through the Paris airports, and just one misplaced bag could potentially cost an athlete a gold medal. I can’t tell you how happy I am that I am not in charge of baggage handling at Charles de Gaulle or Orly airports. Just thinking about the logistics of it all makes my brain hurt.
Security, Security, Security
Security is always one of the biggest concerns of any Olympic Games. Paris 2024 is shaping up to be a uniquely special case, and security concerns are not just for the two weeks of competition. Recent headlines out of France have been dominated by rioting, protests, and civil unrest, during which a training venue in Aubervilliers sustained minor fire damage. Social tensions are high in France at the moment, and as a result, security at Olympic venues will increase over the coming year. What remains to be seen is how this tension will impact next summer’s events. The French never miss an opportunity to protest, and so I can’t imagine that these Games will go off without a demonstration or two. Or ten.
A Year to Go to Paris 2024
There is no other world event quite like the Olympic Games. They are both incredible and highly problematic. But one thing is for sure. They always leave their mark on their host city in one way or another. It is my hope that when all is said and done, that mark will be a positive one for Paris.
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.