The world's capital of romance intends to make the Olympic Games desirable again.
After decades of waste, excess and grotesque behavior by other Olympic hosts, Paris is promising a return to reason with more sober games in 2024. No more white elephant venues that start to decay as soon as the Olympians leave town. No residents forcibly relocated, provoking howls from human rights groups. No more skyrocketing and unforeseen costs.
Full of good intentions, Paris says it wants to set an example that will convince other potential host cities – few and far between of late – that the Olympics aren't a recipe for trouble.
"We have to succeed," says Matthieu Lamarre, a Paris City Hall spokesman. "We are going to show that it is useful to hold the games."
The choice of Paris for 2024 is to be confirmed Wednesday at an International Olympic Committee meeting in Lima, Peru.
Here is a closer look at the Paris plan:
Just one completely new competition venue is planned specifically for the games: the aquatics center for swimming and diving events. Built near the Stade de France, which will serve as the Olympic stadium, the pools should serve a real community need. Half of pre-teens in the area, in the disadvantaged, multicultural northern Paris suburb of Saint-Denis, don't know how to swim, Paris 2024 organizers say.
The only other completely new venue, an 8,000-seat arena for the basketball and wrestling competitions, was planned regardless of whether Paris got the games. The other venues mostly already exist or will be temporary. The projected cost of the new venues and upgrades to others, including the privately funded expansion of Roland Garros that will host tennis and boxing, is $892 million, according to the IOC team that inspected the city's blueprint. Still a considerable sum, but not the billions lavished at other games.
Using Paris' gifts
With so many iconic landmarks, Paris was spoiled for choice for temporary locations to hold Olympic events. The north-south axis of the lawns in front of Napoleon's tomb at the Invalides makes them perfect for the archery. Beach volleyball will be played in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. Taekwondo athletes will fight it out under the glass-and-steel domed magnificence of the Grand Palais. Equestrian competitors are getting royal treatment: their venue is the spectacular Chateau de Versailles. Paris 2024's plans to hold open-water and triathlon swimming in the River Seine that slices through the city will also step up pressure on public authorities to follow through on efforts to clean up its dirty waters and open them for public swimming.
With its world-famous Metro, two major airports and its overlapping transport networks, Paris doesn't need to spend as heavily on public works as previous Olympic hosts. Nor does it intend to completely transform an entire neighborhood, as London did in 2012 with its Olympic Park that breathed new life into Stratford in the East End.
Still, putting the Olympic swimming arena and the new Olympic village for athletes in Seine-Denis should help speed up the regeneration of the once heavily industrialized suburb that became a grim and often scary place after many jobs were lost. Saint-Denis was rocked by weeks of rioting in 2005. A decade later, police SWAT teams swooped on a terror cell in the area and killed the ringleader of the Nov. 13, 2015, attacks that left 130 dead in the French capital.
Just as the 78,000-seat Stade de France helped bring new businesses to Saint-Denis when it was built for the 1998 World Cup, Paris leaders say the Olympic deadline of 2024 will help ensure that other development plans are completed in time.
"This is an opportunity to also change the future of this area," Etienne Thobois, the Paris bid committee chief executive, said in an interview. "The games are going to be a fantastic accelerator."
The games enjoy considerable but not universal public backing. An IOC poll in February of 1,800 people in Paris and elsewhere in France found two-thirds were supportive – still respectable but not as strong as in Los Angeles. On Wednesday, as the IOC meets in Lima, opponents plan to protest at a Paris park. They argue the games will be far more costly – financially, ecologically and socially – than advertised.
This story was reported by The Associated Press