Paris 2024 to move swimming from deprived area in economy drive

Paris (AFP) –


The organisers of the Paris 2024 Olympics announced a swathe of cost-cutting measures on Wednesday which are set to slash 400 million euros ($469 million) from the Games' bill.

The most high-profile of the changes, which still have to be ratified by the International Olympic Committee, sees the swimming events removed from the socially-deprived area of Saint-Denis just north of the city and relocated to the financial district of La Defense.

Volleyball has also been moved from Saint-Denis which does, however, hold on to climbing and rugby sevens which will be staged at the existing Stade de France.

The changes are expected to save 400 million euros from an initial budget of 3.8 billion.

The changes showed "responsibility, sobriety, popular commitment" while maintaining the "ambition" of the Olympics, said the president of the local organising committee (COJO), Tony Estanguet.

"We are not touching the sports programme," he said after a board meeting of the organisers. "We are trying to fit everything into fewer sites."

The swimming will now be staged in a temporary pool within the La Defense Arena, an all-purpose indoor arena which is home to the Racing 92 rugby team and, prior to the Covid-19, hosted concerts by stars including Paul McCartney.

The temporary pool will then be moved to Saint-Denis as part of the "legacy" in line with the original plans.

Estanguet said the changes, which had been announced in principle in the summer, were necessary given "the uncertainty of the economic crisis" caused by coronavirus and also to offset the "extra cost" of additional sports.

Several new sports will be added to the Olympic programme at Paris 2024: climbing, breakdancing, skateboarding and surfing.

Estanguet, a three-time gold medallist in canoeing, also said that sponsorship revenue, for which a decrease was feared, already amounted to 502 million euros from a planned 1.1 billion euros.

A premium partner contract with the communications operator Orange, which has been in the works for several months, is expected to be signed on Thursday and two other so-called "level two" sponsors are also expected to sign up "between now and the end of the year".

- Compensation -

In mid-September, the departmental head of Saint-Denis, Stephane Troussel, warned against making the area "an adjustment variable" of the Olympics.

The loss of the swimming and volleyball has been compensated in part by the arrival of the climbing which was originally due to take place in Place de la Concorde in the heart of Paris. The climbing wall will remain after the Games.

Troussel also eased concerns that the media village in the town of Dugny, close to Le Bourget airport, which was intended to be transformed after the Games into a residential district with 1,300 housing units, might fall foul of the cuts.

"The media village is saved, there are guarantees on that happening," he said, after Wednesday's meeting.

The board of directors also agreed to the reduction in the number of stadiums for the football tournaments from eight to seven.

The changes to the sites are expected to save 150 million euros, including 60 million from moving the swimming events, according to sources close to members of the board of directors. Other savings will be made on other items, such as transport.

Estanguet also confirmed that COJO "was still considering outsourcing part of its operations to outside operators".

The final map will not be known until mid-December when it will go to the IOC for approval.