Macron confronts concerns over Paris 2024 Olympics

5. Macron confronts concerns over Paris 2024 Olympics
France’s President Emmanuel Macron (center) poses with France’s Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne (left) and French Foreign and European Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna (right) as he leads a meeting with members of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games Organizing Committee at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on July 25, 2022. (Photo: AFP)

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday gathered senior ministers to tackle issues shadowing preparations for the Paris 2024 Olympics, almost two years to the day before the sporting extravaganza opens.اضافة اعلان

The Olympics should be a centerpiece of the freshly re-elected Macron’s second term, projecting an image of a France comfortable in its modern identity but open to the world.

But with two years to go to the opening ceremony on July 26, 2024, concerns are growing not just over costs but also security preparations.

France’s reputation as a reliable host of sporting events took a major battering over the chaos that marred the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid in Paris on May 28 that critics blamed on heavy-handed policing.

A particular subject of anxiety is the ambitious vision — in a typical Macron flourish — of an opening ceremony that will not take place as is customary in the athletics stadium but as a flotilla down the River Seine.

The meeting at the Elysee Palace included key ministers such as Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin and Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera, as well as the head of the Paris organizing committee, the three-time Olympic slalom canoe champion Tony Estanguet.

Macron will after the meeting also speak to International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach, the Elysee said.

It is a chance for the ministers “to take note of where there are weaknesses”, said a French presidential official who asked not to be named.

France’s top audit body, the Cour des Comptes, has warned in a report that it is “imperative” to accelerate preparations to deal with the “considerable” security challenge.

“A more precise definition of security needs is becoming urgent,” said the report, the initial version of a study that will be published later this year. It was first revealed by the Canard Enchaine weekly and then seen by AFP.

The report also suggests scaling down the opening ceremony, which is set to have an armada of 200 boats and some 600,000 spectators.

The Le Monde daily said the prospect of the river opening ceremony — with spectators packed on the banks of the Seine — was giving the organizers “cold sweats”.

Some 10 million spectators are expected overall but projects to improve Paris’ sometimes ramshackle transport infrastructure, notably with two new metro lines, will not be ready when the Games begin.

The Games will pose a unique challenge. The showcase athletics and swimming events are due to be held in Seine-Saint-Denis north of Paris, one of the lowest-income areas in France, and a cluster of events in the center of the capital.

Sailing events will take place at the other end of the country in the Mediterranean city of Marseille, while the surfing will be in the Pacific territory of French Polynesia, on the other side of the world.

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