One year to go… Paris 2024, Games wide open towards a new legacy model
By Sylvain Leclerc, MEMOS XVIII
A few days ago, on July 26th 2023, we celebrated the one-year countdown to the Opening Ceremonies of the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. After two editions hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the appetite is big for “regular” Games, with stadiums filled with spectators, fan zones, partners activations, and all other activities that make the Games, THE Games!
After six years of hard work, the Organizing Committee of the 2024 Paris Games has now entered the last leg leading up to the Games of the XXXIII Olympiad, and if the past is any guarantee of the future, the Paris Games should mark the history of the Movement. I firmly believe there will be a “before Paris 2024” and “an after Paris 2024” especially regarding the legacy of the Games, a topic I have personally been paying a lot of attention to over the last year.
I was fortunate to spend a lot of time in Paris in the last year – and am now firmly established in the French capital as consultant for Games stakeholders and partners, and conference speaker. On a daily basis, I am a privileged witness of the efforts put in place by the organizers to create the most comprehensive Games legacy “curriculum” ever.
Largely inspired by the vision of IOC’s Agenda 2020 (& 2020+5), the Paris Games have fully embraced the concept of legacy early on during the bidding phase. Legacy was embedded in the core of the Paris Games DNA; it was not an afterthought… something we do only after the flame is being extinguished over the city. Legacy is also something to be created and delivered during the organization phase of the Games, a heritage in the present tense! To make all this possible, Paris 2024 and its partners successfully nurtured the idea of a common project that would bring together the whole of France and all its stakeholders: state, enterprises, citizens, associations, athletes, etc. All working together towards a common goal. All together to make France run, jump, and move (forward), for this generation and the next one.
The initiatives are numerous:
- The use of 95% of existing competition venues — showcasing Paris’ most iconic historical landmarks – Tour Eiffel and Champ-de-Mars (Beach Volleyball, Judo, Wrestling), Les Invalides (Archery), Le Grand Palais (Fencing and Taekwondo), La Concorde (BMX freestyle, Skateboarding, etc.), Pont Alexandre III (Triathlon, Road cycling, Marathon swimming)… and what about that Opening Ceremonies taking place directly on La Seine (over 6 kilometers and under 15+ bridges and walkways);
- The ambitious project to improve the water quality of La Seine to make it fit for bathing (total investment, between 1 and 1.5 billion Euros);
- The major public investments in Seine-Saint-Denis (notably the construction of the Olympic Village, with its strong focus on eco-design);
- The ambition to halve the carbon footprint of the Games compared to previous editions and to make Paris 2024 the most eco-responsible Games in history;
- International cooperation projects in collaboration with the French Development Agency (Impact 2024 label) and the Terre de Jeux 2024 label (aimed at local authorities and players in the French sports movement wishing to get involved in the adventure of the Paris Games)
- The creation of an endowment funds (total budget: 50 million Euros), managed by a Board of Directors, whose mission is to accompany projects of general interest that use sport for health, well-being, the pleasure of learning, civic engagement, inclusion, solidarity, equality, the environment, climate and culture.
The Paris 2024 Games Organizing Committee is resolutely committed to a long-lasting and sustainable legacy that goes far beyond the simple sporting framework of the Games. As Paris 2024 is demonstrating, in my opinion, more clearly than any previous organizing committee, the Games are much more than a simple multi-sport competition lasting a few weeks.
When we think of the legacy of the Games, we, first and foremost, think of stadiums and infrastructures… we think of the material legacy. But the legacy of the Games is not only material, it is also immaterial. It is in the business opportunities we create through programs for retired athletes (i.e. Impact 2024) and for start-ups and innovators (i.e. Le Tremplin). It is in the Olympic and Paralympic Week, when dozens of French athletes visit schools to introduce young and old to the practice of sport. It is in one of the most ambitious Cultural Olympiad program ever put forward by an Organizing Committee. And this legacy delivery has already begun. This movement already gained momentum a few years ago. Who said the legacy had to begin once the flame has been extinguished?
Organizing the Olympic and Paralympic Games in a city means shaping the territory for decades to come. Nowadays, it also means adapting its territory and infrastructures to cope with climate change. Paris 2024 is not just an Organizing Committee; it’s also the SOLIDEO (public body responsible for delivering the Olympic and Paralympic infrastructures), the Paris City Council, the Seine-Saint-Denis Departmental Council, the Water Agency, etc. These institutions are drawing up public policies, developing sustainable mobility and urban planning, and thinking about the city of tomorrow… by using the opportunity of hosting of the Games as a public investment accelerator & catalyst.
Ultimately, the main outcome of this great Parisian adventure could be no more, no less than to redefine the model for organizing the Games, so that the public administrators of cities, regions and states wishing to host future editions of the Games (and other major sporting events) build their project around a long-lasting legacy strategy, right from the design stage.
There has been bumps in the road and there will be more along the way between now and the conclusion of the Paris Games on September 8, 2024, but, as I mentioned earlier, if the past is any guarantee of the future, Paris 2024 is on its way to win the gold medal for shaping the future Games model for the long-time benefits of the Movement.
As they say here “Ouvrons grand les Jeux” (Games wide open)!
PS: and to all my dear MEMOS colleagues, don’t hesitate to touch base with me during your next visit in Paris – I’ll be more than happy to show you a good time here!