Paris Olympics organiser 'ready to run a marathon at 100-metre speed'

Tokyo (AFP) –


Paris Olympics chief organiser Tony Estanguet has told AFP the 2024 Summer Games will be "spectacular" but admits coronavirus and environmental issues could pose a problem as he prepares to take the baton from Tokyo.

The postponed Games in Japan have been held almost completely without spectators and under the shadow of the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Estanguet, a triple Olympic gold medallist in canoeing, said the organisers of the Tokyo Games had shown a "capacity to adapt" -- and that was a lesson his 2024 team would take away with them.

"We still don't know in what context the Games will be organised," he said.

"We are more or less sure that we will face difficulties, either linked to climate or health issues, and when the time comes we have to be able to take decisions.

"We know that we are going to have to get used to living with Covid and we can hope that the health situation improves by 2024," he added.

When the Olympics return to Paris a century after they were last held there, they will draw heavily on the attractions that make the French capital one of the most visited cities in the world.

French President Emmanuel Macron revealed at the start of the Tokyo Games that organisers would like the 2024 opening ceremony to take place on the River Seine.

Organisers will stage beach volleyball at the Trocadero, facing the Eiffel Tower, while equestrian events will be held at the Chateau de Versailles.

The logo of the 2024 Paris Olympics
The logo of the 2024 Paris Olympics STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN AFP

"We wanted to take the ceremony out of the stadium and put it in the heart of Paris," Estanguet said.

"Our aim is that by the end of this year we will have established whether a ceremony in the centre of the city is feasible."

Athletics will be held in the Stade de France, the stadium in the gritty Saint Denis area to the north of Paris that was built to host the 1998 football World Cup.

Estanguet said he could not hide his excitement at the prospect of Sunday's closing ceremony of the 2020 Games, when Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo will receive the Olympic flag from the Governor of Tokyo Yuriko Koike.

"How exciting to finally be able to officially take over the status of the future organisers," Estanguet said. "One hundred years after the last Olympics in Paris, we are taking the Games home with us.

"We are in good shape, we're ready to run this marathon at the speed of the 100 metres and we're going to have to accelerate."

The Stade de France will host the athletics events at the 2024 Paris Olympics
The Stade de France will host the athletics events at the 2024 Paris Olympics Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD AFP/File

"Our strong point is our capacity to offer a new model for an Olympic Games, more spectacular Games... with a real emphasis on the financial part, the environmental part and on our desire to throw open our doors so people can really experience the adventure," Estanguet added.

"France has everything to make the world marvel at it, and we are going to be watched by four billion people!"