Activists in Paris are calling for a referendum over the city’s Olympic bid. With the slogan “no games of money, concrete and sponsors” an online petition was launched February 17, the same day opponents of Budapest’s Olympic bid completed the collection of over 266,000 signatures in their city, enough to force a referendum in Hungary’s Capital.
The Budapest Mayor has since withdrawn Hungary’s bid, citing the loss of the Prime Minster’s support and lack of unity behind the project.
Paris’ online petition, though not legally binding, had collected over 5,107 signatures by mid-day Friday. Bid officials have long touted the strong public support for the project, however a referendum is not legally required for the bid to move forward.
The petition, addressed to Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and the President of the Regional Council of Ile-de-France Valérie Pecresse, points to past examples for the basis of its referendum push.
It says “we citizens do not accept that the candidature of Paris to the Olympic Games 2024 was taken without us. The cities of Boston, Toronto and Hamburg have already renounced their candidature, and Hamburg has done so by referendum. The Mayor of Rome, by withdrawing the candidacy of her city, denounced the ‘Games of the concrete’. The people of Budapest have just obtained the organization of a referendum.”
After Budapest’s withdrawal, Los Angeles is the only remaining rival for Paris as the French Capital races to host its third Olympic Games on the 100th anniversary of the second staging.
“The IOC (International Olympic Committee) is taking full control of the Games,” the petition said.
“Cities and states are placed under guardianship for the duration of the Games.
“The Olympic Games misappropriate the money that could be used for more useful projects. If we want to invest in public facilities, housing, transport infrastructure, we can do it without the Olympics.
“Already we see that the Games serve as a necessary safeguard for the material realization of certain aspects of Greater Paris, a Pharaonic, ill-conceived, anti-democratic and anti-ecological project.
“The Olympic Games are likely to be the occasion to privatize the public space for the biggest benefit of construction companies, for sports equipment manufacturers, and all major companies sponsoring Games.
“The decision to apply (to host the Olympic Games) was imposed through a ‘consultation’ that was only a front. The mayor of Paris (Anne Hidalgo) was against the Games before becoming mayor, since she changed her mind,” the proponents behind the petition claim.
Danielle Simonnet, Paris councilor of the 20th arrondissement supports a referendum in Paris.
She told Le Monde “Of course, we need a referendum.”
“Such a choice of event should be made after a democratic debate within the population and a decision should be taken by means of a referendum. This is what I have defended each time at the Council of Paris. It is still unheard of to think that initially Anne Hidalgo was against the candidacy.
“It took a little pressure from [French President] Francois Hollande to change her position completely, to support her, and then to reduce the consultation of the inhabitants to the only modalities of application on issues such as volunteering.”
A recent poll demonstrated that 88 per cent of Los Angeles residents are behind America’s 2024 Olympic bid, and no referendum is required for the largely privately funded project. Los Angeles was chosen to host its most recent Olympic Games in 1984 when there were no other cities in the running.
While no referendum is likely to occur in the French capital, it will be important for the bid committee to address concerns and retain public support. The IOC will take its own public opinion poll in Paris around the time the Evaluation Commission inspects the city beginning May 14, and will release the results in July.
The petition concludes “if, as the City and the Region claim, the population supports Paris 2024, then there is no problem in asking directly for an opinion.”
The IOC will elect the 2024 host city from among Los Angeles and Paris on September 13 in Lima, Peru.
A senior producer and award-winning journalist covering Olympic bid business as founder of GamesBids.com as well as providing freelance support for print and Web publications around the world. Robert Livingstone is a member of the Olympic Journalists Association and the International Society of Olympic Historians.