Tokyo 2020

'Capacity to adapt' will be key to Paris 2024

TOKYO • Paris Olympics chief organiser Tony Estanguet has told AFP the 2024 Games will be "spectacular", but admits coronavirus and environmental issues could pose a problem as he prepares to take the baton from Tokyo.

The postponed Games in Japan have been held almost completely without spectators and under the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Estanguet, who won three Olympic golds in canoeing, said the organisers of the Tokyo Games had shown a "capacity to adapt" - and that was a lesson his 2024 team would take away with them.

"We still don't know in what context the Games will be organised," he said. "We are more or less sure that we will face difficulties, either linked to climate or health issues, and when the time comes, we have to be able to take decisions.

"We know that we are going to have to get used to living with Covid and we can hope that the health situation improves by 2024."

When the Olympics return to Paris a century after they were last held there, they will draw heavily on the attractions that make the French capital one of the most visited cities in the world.

French President Emmanuel Macron revealed at the start of the Tokyo Games that organisers would like the 2024 opening ceremony to take place on the River Seine.

Organisers will stage beach volleyball at the Trocadero, facing the Eiffel Tower, while equestrian events will be held at the Chateau de Versailles.

"We wanted to take the ceremony out of the stadium and put it in the heart of Paris," Estanguet said. "Our aim is that by the end of this year, we will have established whether a ceremony in the centre of the city is feasible."

Athletics will be held in the Stade de France, the stadium in the gritty Saint Denis area to the north of Paris that was built to host the 1998 football World Cup.

Estanguet said he could not hide his excitement at the prospect of tomorrow's closing ceremony for the 2020 Games, when Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo will receive the Olympic flag from the Governor of Tokyo, Yuriko Koike.

"How exciting to finally be able to officially take over the status of the future organisers," Estanguet said. "One hundred years after the last Olympics in Paris, we are taking the Games home with us.

"We are in good shape, we're ready to run this marathon at the speed of the 100 metres and we're going to have to accelerate."

The Paris organising committee's first hurdle will come tomorrow, when they will unfurl and fly what they hope will be the biggest flag ever flown from the Eiffel Tower.

Estanguet said the flag is "more or less the equivalent of a football field" and it will be part of the handover ceremony.

He added: "The excitement is very strong. We want to start with a world record. It's the biggest flag every raised, ever."

He did not say whether it will be the flag of France, that of the Olympic rings or one with the 2024 Games logo. "Suspense," he said.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 07, 2021, with the headline ''Capacity to adapt' will be key to Paris 2024'. Subscribe