2024 Olympic Games: What’s At Stake for Paris

15 avril 2015
Le point de vue de Pim Verschuuren
What lessons are there to gain from Paris’s past failed Olympic Game candidacies? How can Paris win?

Before the French Olympic Committee (CNOSF) published its opportunity analysis for a Paris candidacy to the 2024 Olympic Games, a report (the “Keneo” report) was submitted on the past failed Parisian candidacies as well as Annecy’s failed 2018 attempt. This Keneo report was intended to clear up how and why these candidacies failed. Through the latest declarations from politicians and sports representatives, it would seem that the lesson has been learned, though we’ll have to wait to see how they’re applied in the near future. The main point that stands out is that the candidacy must be spearheaded by members of the sports scene, notably Bernard Lapasset, lead researcher on the aforementioned opportunity analysis and first to evoke the question of a French candidacy. Tony Estanguet, member of the of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and now retired Olympic athlete, will also partake in this project and help carry France’s 2024 candidacy forward.

Among the biggest questions surrounding this candidacy is its organization, namely how to bring home the win, a question that should not be taken lightly but rather be the focal point of upcoming discussions. Further driving this point home are the events of the 2012 candidacy, won by London in 2005, highlighting France’s lackluster lobbying strategies compared to its competition. It would seem to me that France has finally understood that those who vote to grant the Olympic Games to host cities do not only base their vote on technical arguments surrounding the quality of the presented file, notably sports infrastructure, urbanism or athletic heritage. An individual lobbying strategy must be put in place for each member of the IOC, who do not in fact represent their country must hold individual offices.

Heeding this strategy, Paris can win on account of its already excellent file in terms of infrastructure. Most of the necessary constructions are already present, only the media center, Olympic village, and Olympic would need to be built. This would also provide an opportunity to carry out needed renovations in places like the Stade de France and Roland Garros, though some are already taking place regardless. However, despite an excellent technical presentation, other issues will need to be addressed such as transport, with an estimated two million visitors (including 10,000 athletes, 20,000 reporters and the staff of each delegation) that will need to move around the city for two weeks. Public transport in Paris is already very dense and well-developed, but already often saturated, there will thus be certain lines of transport that will require improvements.
Lastly, there is a whole strategy concerning durability and heritage that must be established. Paris will need to show that this will not just be a two week long competition of organized sports but that the 2024 games will leave a balanced and lasting effect on its territory, a message that could either aimed at the youth (like London 2012) or the environment. The urban mark the Olympic Games leaves is also very important. For 2024 it seems likely that a part of the Couronne Nord of Paris will be refurbished, particularly at Saint-Denis, la Courneuve and the Bourget. These are real arguments that can not only be put forward but are becoming increasingly important for the IOC. The IOC wishes for the events organized to be both durable and properly integrated into their environment so as to not leave behind giant infrastructures that become useless soon after the Games, as was the case for Athens in 2004.

The cost of organising Olympic Games is at the heart of each candidacy. Who takes up these charges? What are the positive effects of the Olympic Games on each country?

A large part of the cost is billed to the public sector. The presented budget for the 2024 candidacy is 6, 2 billion Euros. Half of this budget is in theory financed by the Games themselves, by the IOC which finances a portion of the Game’s organization and by revenue made through ticket sales and marketing. The remaining 3 billion is split up between territorial collectivities, the city of Paris and the State, but also includes the private sector represented by companies sponsoring and supporting the event.
However the latest Olympic Games have shown that the event constantly goes over budget and the public sector is the one to put the necessary funds forward, notably for things like security. Let us not forget that the day after the London nomination in 2005, the city was attacked via its public transport. For this very reason, the security budget for the 2012 games had amplified. Paris will likely have to put up an equally important security budget if it wins the 2024 nomination.

From a strictly financial standpoint, the Olympic Games are, in the majority of cases, not lucrative in the short and even medium length term. Candidates tend to fall back on extra-economical benefits, ranging from urban renovation to large scale works on public transport, athletic infrastructures and even low cost housing via a transformation of the olympic village. The Grand Paris projects envisioned before the candidacy came into discussion is an example of projects that would benefit from the Olympic Games, construction and renovation of these projects could become a priority in order to be ready for 2024. The whole Ile-De-France region will thus need to be integrated into the event’s organization, which in the long term will benefit not only the residents of Paris but of the whole region.

The Games also serve to enforce social cohesion, albeit short lived since the event lasts only two weeks, as the host city and country observe an increased passion for the Games among its citizens.

Finally, there are indirect economic incentives in the sense where France will be hosting an important number of visitors, as well as being placed on the forefront of all the publicity and during the events, creating a great opportunity for France’s companies to attract industrial contracts. London had focused the 2012 Games on the notions of innovation, creativity, and youth, all arguments that pulled in a fair share of investors. It is however extremely complicated to calculate just how beneficial these side effects would be. Due do this, reports often focus more on the extra-economical effects of the Games.

Who are Paris’s major competitors at this moment? What are their arguments?

For now, there are three other contenders: Boston, Rome, and Hamburg. Each of these three cities have, like all candidacies, their advantages and deficiencies. Boston benefits from the support of the American Olympic Committee, a powerful committee on the international olympic scene. A large part of the television rights come from the United States, which makes up a huge market for the IOC, and the numerous American companies that invest in the Olympic Games adds yet more weight to their cause, but the failed American candidacies of the past go to show that this weight is not a defining perk. Some argue that the failures of New York 2012 and Chicago 2016 are a product of an American omnipresence, and the results of tense financial negotiations between the American committee and the IOC. Another inconvenience for Boston is the apparent lack of enthusiasm displayed by its citizens, as polls have gone to show that a small majority of Boston residents are opposed to hosting in 2024. The city’s authorities are hoping to carry out a public polling in 2016, but this poll would still take place after the candidacy is submitted (scheduled for September 2015). If it were confirmed, this lack of enthusiasm and popular support already present in other American cities these last few years, would be the killing blow for Boston’s Olympic project.

The other important candidate is Hamburg. This European candidate has the advantage of being indirectly supported by Thomas Bach, the IOC president, German citizen and previous president of the German Olympic Committee. His position as IOC president restrains him at least from publicly supporting Hamburg. The city is a particular candidate due to its ability to concentrate a large number of its athletic facilities to a small geographical area. The IOC is often receptive to this argument, as shown in the case of Tokyo 2020. On top of this, around 80% of Hamburg’s population supports the candidacy, further adding weight to their file.

Rome is the final candidate for the 2024 Olympic Games. Rome has had a series of unfortunate candidacies in the past, notably withdrawing from the race for the 2020 Games due to financial problems. As it stands, this candidate is a rather timid one, but the coming months will define how Rome intends to sell its file to the IOC.

There is also a potential for “non-western” candidates to appear, such as Durban for South Africa, Doha for Qatar or even Bakou in Azerbaijan. These contestants currently do not hold the same weight as the cities already in the race, and the fact that the three Olympic competitions preceding the 2024 Games will take place in Rio (2016), South Korea (2018), Tokyo (2020) and either Beijing or Almaty (Kazakhstan) in 2022, there is a good chance that the IOC will uphold its traditional “continent rotation” policy for 2024 – despite the fact that this policy is not entirely honest, as Africa has yet to host any Olympic events.

Translated by Emilia Capitaine and Elie Khoury, students at IRIS Sup’
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