Opening ceremony: no plan B planned except adjustments

The question could irritate Olympic organizers. However, this has all its legitimacy considering the magnitude of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Arras attack which killed a teacher, not to mention the protracted war in Ukraine.

Is there a plan B for the Olympic opening ceremony on the 6km-long River Seine on July 26, 2024? Tony Estanguet, boss of Paris 2024, responded from Bombay (India), on the occasion of the final session of the IOC. “ There is no other alternative to the opening ceremony. This was never considered “, he interrupted on October 16, a week after Hamas attacks on Israeli territory.

“There was no plan B because the model we chose, coming out of the stadium, was the result of work that had been done for more than two years on the design of the ceremony”

Pierre Rabadan, Deputy Sports Mayor of Paris

A month later, the response has not changed, while several voices have emerged to demand an emergency solution, including that of David Douillet, a two-time Olympic judo champion. “ I hope that the geopolitical situation will be more peaceful so that we can hold a peaceful Olympics, held in the best conditions. If the light was red the day before because of the risk of an attack, then a plan B is needed for the opening ceremony », asked the former Minister of Sports in the weekly Gallery.

There is no plan B, but we consider the questions we need to ask ourselves or take a break in order to responsibly understand the current context. », Confirmed Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, Minister of Sports and Olympic and Paralympic Games on the sidelines of the presentation of the Paralympic flame trail, on November 10. “ There was no plan B because the model we chose, coming out of the stadium, was the result of work that had been done for more than two years on the design of the ceremony. », added Pierre Rabadan, deputy Sports mayor of Paris, emphasizing the desire to “ maintaining ambition despite the different organizational difficulties of the stadium “.

Because ” plan B is a return to stadiums, hence the Stade de France », continued the former Stade Français international player. This is indeed the most obvious fallback solution. But not necessarily the easiest, says Sports Assistant. “ This would have major operational consequences as it would mean mobilizing the Stade de France for the ten days when we put rugby sevens there to reduce one location which is Jean-Bouin and increase revenue with more tickets for rugby matches. COJO will suffer economic losses “, to be clear, qualifications” big mess » rejecting this unprecedented ceremony, without denying the complexity of the problem.

Technical tests on the Seine River. (A. Réau/Team)

National Defense and Security Council later this month

We will have a meeting around the President of the Republic in November », The Sports Minister’s bottom line, referring to the National Defense and Security Council (CDSN) that will soon be held at the Élysée, is aimed at the security of the Games, including of course the opening ceremony. From the beginning, this idea “ Crazy ” river parade supported by the President of the Republic who gave the green light to COJOP starting in 2020. On CDSN next week, various kinds ” adjustment », according to Pierre Rabadan’s expression. Among them, the adaptation of measuring instruments on a high platform which is open to spectators who have registered via the free ticket window managed by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Initially it was estimated at around 500,000 people, but this has been revised downwards and could be reduced again. It remains to be seen how much: 400,000, 300,000, less? In the security protocol signed on May 23 between the State of Paris 2024 and the City of Paris, the security standard was set at 3 people per square meter. On lower platforms, the number of spectators with paid tickets should not change as it is set at just under 100,000 during the second phase of ticket sales organized by Paris 2024. Safety restrictions will also be discussed as will the flow of spectators before, during and after the ceremony.

We have to remember this, but when we launched this project, it was at a time when France was under attack », underlines Tony Estanguet in Bombay, referring to the attack on Charlie Hebdo, which occurred on November 13 2015, eight years ago. “ From the start, the authorities and Paris 2024 have ensured that safety is the No. 1 priority for a successful Olympic Games. Every decision we take is shared with the highest authorities to ensure security is guaranteed », he concluded.

Serena Hoyles

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