KEIR RADNEDGE in PARIS —- Mayor Anne Hidalgo has no doubt about the Paris pursuit of the 2024 Olympics. In a perfect soundbite she proclaimed: “We are at the top and we are going to stay there.”
Back in the mists of modern bidding time Hidalgo was an Olympic host sceptic. The achievement of the Paris 2024 committee was not least in convincing her that this was a winning cause – and her passion for her own city ultimately won the day.
After convincing Hidalgo then ‘selling’ Paris to the International Olympic Committee about Parisian potential should be comparative child’s play on behalf of the world’s favourite tourist destination.
Hidalgo let rip after a long day on the road around all the key venues being proposed in the contest with Los Angeles for 2024 which is expected to reach a climax in Lima on September 13 with the other being awarded the 2028 summer Games.
An evaluation commission led by IOC Patrick Baumann ran the rule over LA last week and today was the second of three days checking out the Paris project. Hidalgo and the Paris team began with a grand view of the project from – where better? – the Eiffel Tower.
After that it was whistle-stop around the prospective sites for the Olympic Village, media centre plus already-standing Stade de France, Villette park, Grand Palais, Parc des Prince, rugby stadium Jean Bouin followed by a winning point at Roland Garros tennis centre preparing to stage the 2017 French Open.
Here was a gentle reminder not only that Paris can do the job but that it already ‘owns’ iconic world sports events to call its own.
Hidalgo just loved it. She said: “I have enjoyed a beautiful day with the entire team of Paris 2024. It’s been a great day because I’ve been showing my city to people and telling them about my city.
“I love coming back to these landmarks and these sites and I wanted to be with the team to tell the human story of this incredible city which leaves no-one indifferent.
“We were able to show the quality of our dossier. Every sport has been looked at from all angles in a very precise way and I don’t think many would deny that our dossier is truly exceptional from both the technical and sporting perspective.
“At each site we visited – the architects, the athletes, the security people, teachers, children – all had the same enthusiasm and desire for the Paris 24 Games.
“This is something which struck me: wherever we go people say: ‘We want the Games.’ I can’t tell you the number of sms messages I receive saying ‘we want these Games, we are with you.’ This is something we have felt all day long.”
Paris and Los Angeles are magnificently contrasting contestants with confidence in the power of their own vision and competence. For LA’s modernity, read Parisian history. For both read Olympic ambition.
This week is Hidalgo’s stage.
She said: “Paris wants to host the world, France is behind us — and I’m saying it in this venue where Pierre de Coubertin aligned sports and humanism, sports and culture. We are at the top and we are going to stay there.
“There is no favourite in this competition. Everyone tries to be the best. It’s an open competition. But not only do I believe in our chances but I believe in our competence and our project and the extraordinary fervour in France to host the Games.
“We really want to welcome the Games. We’ve waited 100 years and this confidence is ours because we are ready.”
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