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.
The Olympics should be a centerpiece of the freshly re-elected Macron’s second term, projecting an image of a comfortable France in its modern identity but open to the world.
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.
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.
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.
“The idea is to be aware of the calendar and the next stages.”
The Olympics organizing committee COJO has a budget of four billion euros ($4.1 billion), as does its partner organization SOLIDEO, which is charged with building the peripheral infrastructure.
“Everything is very tight concerning the budget,” said a source close to the issue who asked not to be named, saying the extent of the challenge would be clear in the autumn.
In addition to the French security forces, over 20,000 private security agents need to be hired to ensure the Games can proceed.
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.
The report also suggests scaling down the opening ceremony, which is set to have an armada of 200 boats and some 600,000 spectators.
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.
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.