Total pull sponsorship plug on 2024 Olympics over 'eco-Games'

Paris (AFP) –


Energy giants Total has ruled out sponsoring the 2024 Olympics in Paris, keen to avoid being "pilloried" in a city where mayor Anne Hidalgo has increasingly campaigned for environmentally sound initiatives.

Total's chief executive officer Patrick Pouyanne confirmed his company's decision to opt out following a meeting with Hidalgo last week.

Neither Total, the Paris 2024 Olympics local organising committee nor Hidalgo's office wished to comment on the development.

In their search for sponsors for Paris 2024, organisers had turned to Total, one of the world's integrated oil and gas leaders. The company has an established profile in the world of sports, be it at the African Cup of Nations football or through its Total Direct Energie cycling team.

Talks about Olympic sponsorship deals were well under way between the two parties and Total was even lined up to become the second sponsor, behind banking group Banque Populaire-Caisse d'Epargne {BCPE), which was unveiled in September last year.

But at the end of March, one year ahead of municipal elections in which Hidalgo would be seeking a second mandate, the Paris mayor -- without naming Total -- warned Paris 2024 chief Tony Estanguet in a letter that "it would be very difficult for our fellow citizens to identify with companies whose activity would have a big impact on the environment, based in particular on the massive use of carbon-based energies".

One source within the Paris Olympics set-up said: "To keep her majority, Anne Hidalgo is obliged to give pledges to the ecologists."

Since she became Paris mayor, Hidalgo has committed to cutting down environmental pollution, particularly by cars, with schemes such the promotion of an electric car sharing service and a large-scale public bicycle sharing system.

Estanguet replied to Hidalgo confirming the organising committee's commitment to organising a carbon-neutral Games.

"The choice of partners will never question this ambition and the commitments we've taken," he said.

Total CEO Pouyanne, for his part, told a shareholders' meeting that he did not want to be a "sponsor who is pilloried", ironically noting that the energy firm's 100-million-euro pledge to the fund to help rebuild the burned-out Notre Dame de Paris cathedral had raised no such polemic.