Macron launches 500-day countdown to Paris Olympics


PARIS—French President Emmanuel Macron launched the 500-day countdown to the 2024 Paris Olympics and Paralympics on Tuesday, bringing the public up to date with his government’s hopes for the Games, including the ambitious use of the Seine.

Macron addressed hundreds of officials at a “speech of thanks” in the Paris police headquarters, saying that though plans are advancing “nothing should be taken as a guarantee.”

“All that remains for us are 500 short days that separate us from the extraordinary events that are the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games, (where) we are going to host the world,” Macron said.

In the speech and on Twitter, Macron thanked the 45,000 volunteers mobilizing to make the Games “a success” and again trumpeted the 5,000 new sports grounds that are in the works.

Officials are pushing to get infrastructure and sites ready in time, with projects pockmarking many of Paris’ boulevards.

Macron also made reference to the ambitious 1.4-billion-euro ($1.5 billion) scheme to clean the polluted waters of Paris’ main river artery.

“The Seine and the Marne (rivers) will be made swimmable,” he said.

Several events are to be held in the Seine, including the 10-kilometer swimming marathon—in a mirror of the first Paris Olympics in 1900.

Macron also hopes to ditch tradition by staging the opening ceremony on water in an ambitious plan that will see craft floating on the Seine by the Eiffel Tower—as millions watch.

The Paris Games’ budget is at 4.4 billion euros ($4.7 billion), according to an Elysee official who spoke anonymously in line with the French presidency’s customary practices. 

Ticket sales are a substantial part of the revenues—at least one third—that Paris organizers need to pay for the Olympics, he said.

“The first phase of ticket sales is encouraging,” the Elysee official said. He added that the huge demand for tickets during the first phase of sales earlier this month, when more than 3 million tickets were sold, has made Macron confident that securing the funds for the Paris Games is on track.

Macron has not yet weighed in on a Ukrainian-led call for a blanket ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes.

Image credits: AP

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