Reporting from Paris, France – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission (EC) completed its first of three days in Paris evaluating the city’s 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games bid. On the agenda day one were presentations and discussions surrounding key questions that the bid committee received in advance of the visit.
“We have had a very long day with the bid committee,” Commission Chair Patrick Baumann said Sunday evening.
“We had very open, intense discussions, back-and-forth exchanges.”
“[Paris 2024] showed extraordinary enthusiasm.
Discussion around legacy, and the need to construct a new (USD) $1.8 billion Olympic Village and a $112 million Aquatics facility were a key part of the meetings.
French World Champion Judoka Teddy Riner, who will be attending a gala dinner with IOC members and fellow athletes Sunday evening said that the aquatics facility is a badly needed legacy if the Games are held in Paris.
He said “one out of two children [in France] can’t swim by the age of 11.”
“It’s a big problem,” he added stressing that 2024 would be a much better option than 2028, “this venue cannot wait.”
Paris 2024 Co-Chair Tony Estanguet said the Olympic Village and the Media Village, that requires construction prior to the Games, are also much needed legacies that will provide housing in an under-serviced area. After the bid election in September the project to build the accommodations will begin, though they will only be configured as a Village should the IOC award Paris the Games in 2024.
Developers won’t wait until 2028 should the IOC award the Games instead to LA and offer Paris the 2028 edition as a consolation, the bid committee assured.
These latest salvos in the Paris narrative underline a shift in a nearly perfect race to aim specifically at hosting the 2024 Games and not just one of the two 2024 / 2028 options that the IOC is considering awarding in September. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti has said his bid is the right choice for the IOC and “why not” choose it first, while Paris’ Estanguet continues to emphasize that due to the Olympic Village project, his city is simply not available for 2028.
Estanguet, who Sunday said he would become Chief of the organizing committee should Paris be elected host city, said by building these important venues the 2024 Games will “leave a tangible legacy for decades to come.”
“It was a very, very important and the dialogue was very good,” Esanguet said of the first day of meetings.
“They have been impressed by the quality of the landmarks and the iconic venues that we offer.
“The celebration will be memorable and I think it will be one of the main assets of 2024.”
The Paris 2024 concept includes a city center Games along the River Seine, and contrasts with Los Angeles’ sports park model – both of which have already drawn praise from the Commission.
After lauding Los Angeles’ bid at the inspection in California last week, and with nothing but positive comments about Paris Sunday, Baumann came under fire from skeptical reporters.
“Both bids at the basis are extraordinary cities,” Baumann said in defense.
“These are two big cities, two Olympic cities.
“There is an Olympic spirit that is very strong in both cities,” Baumann added, referring to the previous two Games each city has hosted.
“It is almost impossible to go under 10 out of 10 [for both Paris and LA].
“[Paris] is very different [from LA] and quite right that we say it is quite exceptional.
“What we have heard today is a very exceptional presentation, a very detailed presentation.”
To win, Paris will need to compete with the immense popularity of the Games in Los Angeles where in an independent survey last year 88 per cent of Angelenos say they support the bid. To counter, in his opening remarks Estanguet referenced similar 88 per cent support across Paris, but constrained to a narrow demographic of 15 to 24-year-old youth and commissioned by the bid.
Just hours after French President Emmanuel Macron was inaugurated a short distance from the Hôtel Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel where the Commission and Paris 2024 were conducting their closed-door meeting, bid Co-Chair Bernard Lapasset confirmed that the President would meet with the group to exchange questions Tuesday morning.
“[Macron’s] first visit as president is to meet with the IOC Evaluation Commission and Paris 2024,” he said adding that it was a big honor to receive that attention.
The IOC team will be at an official welcome dinner Sunday night by Paris 2024. On Monday the Commission will leave the conference room and visit venues across the city for a first-hand look at the elements of the bid’s concept.
On Monday night the team is invited to an IIHF World Ice Hockey Championship Match between France and Slovenia. The visit wraps up Tuesday.