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The 10 Main Challenges of the 2024 Paris Olympics

The 10 Main Challenges of the 2024 Paris Olympics
 Victor Poirier
Former director of Publications

Finally ! Paris will officially host the Olympic Games in 2024 - exactly 100 years after the last edition it had organised. Competing with Los Angeles, Paris' application stood out because of the numerous infrastructures already present in the city but, also, thanks to the successive withdrawals of the other city candidates (Boston, Hamburg, Rome, Budapest). However, there are many apprehensions around this event, particularly concerning the respect of the budget. Indeed, the Euro 2016 was prone to similar concerns. But beside the economic dimension, the Olympics will have other considerable impacts on the capital. What challenges is Paris facing with the organisation of these Olympic Games' Find out the answers in 10 points.

1- France’s attractiveness

The positive figures of tourism in 2017 hide the systemic difficulties faced by the French tourism and highlighted by the last report of Institut Montaigne on the topic. Paris could benefit from the Olympic Games and reinforce its attractiveness sustainably. Of course, many potential visitors will deliberately avoid the city during the Games because of the agitation caused by competition. However that number should be less significant than that of tourists coming to support their country: around 20 000 hotel rooms will be created by 2020 in order to respond to the higher demand.

Hosting the Olympics will enable France to enhance its soft power, putting French culture, values and image in the spotlight, as it was the case of Beijing when it organised the Olympics in 2008. However, the event will have to be a success in order to ensure this.

2- Ecology

The declared goals are ambitious: 25% less GES in 2020 than in 2004, support of the circular economy in order to reduce waste, promotion of active and electric mobilities, etc. Paris insisted on the ecological aspect of its application as host town in order to win the organisation and to promote the Paris Agreements on climate.

Moreover, as 95% of the sites hosting the athletes and the competitions are already built (70%) or temporary (25%), the environmental impact will be considerably limited.

3- Mobility

How does the town plan on guarantee - to its residents and its tourists - a good, accessible and durable mobility during this period ? This issue will be crucial but could also be the opportunity to rethink the urban mobility of tomorrow.

Today, Parisians lose an average of 38 minutes in traffic per day and in 9 out of 10 cars there is only one person, the driver. In its recent report What role for cars in tomorrow’s world' Institut Montaigne indicates paths to follow in order to respond to the automobile challenges in the city center: carrying out real-time study of the traffic, better matching between transports offer and demand, the promoting eco-driving, etc.

4- Infrastructures

As opposed to the London and Barcelona Olympics, that initiated the urban renewal of the two metropolis, the 2024 Olympics will take place in an already existing urban mutation, the Grand Paris : a project initiated in 2008 that aims to create new economic hubs around Paris, as well as a performing and inclusive public transport network - with better links between the capital and its airports.

This tremendous project is an important piece of Paris’ application. According to the JLL cabinet, the French capital should avoid delays that would compromise the organisation of the event: the works of the "Grand Paris" project should be achieved by 2030, which thus constitutes an intermediary step in the towns’ development.

5-The budget

With a provisional budget of 6.8 billion euros, the Paris Olympics are planned to be extremely costy. Especially knowing that in events like this one, budgets are often exceeded. Indeed, according to two Oxford researchers, the GO budgets of the hosting cities have been, on average, exceeded by 179%! For example, in 2012, London spent 11 billion euros whereas its initial budget was fixed at 4.8 billion.

On the contrary to its predecessors, Paris chose to host the Olympics around already existing infrastructures and is therefore expected to better manage its investments. But some spendings such as security are difficult to estimate. In a context of managing and reducing the public spending, the economic consequences of this event will be attentively followed.

6-The creation of jobs

According to the impact study carried out by the CDES, nearly 25,000 jobs are expected to be created for the organisation of the competition (split between organisation, tourism and construction). Looking at what happened in London, the CDES estimated that half of the economic impact would be concentrated in 2024, with 30% upstream and 20% downstream. As with every sporting event of this scope held in France (such as the Tour de France), these economic spinoffs will benefit French small and medium-sized companies. This requires proactive action on the part of public authorities, which should have their order books filled for the occasion.

7- Social cohesion

By hosting the Olympic Games, Paris has a great opportunity to reinforce the social cohesion of the country. The latter is weakened by numerous inequalities and discriminations (of race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc…) which have been highlighted by the Observatoire des inégalités. Such inequalities are persisting and even increasing, especially those linked to economic criteria.

By transmitting values such as solidarity, civic engagement but also the equality between men and women, this sportive competition can generate great enthusiasm and raise the awareness of the public powers and the population. But to ensure that, the population needs to be supportive and particularly, the underprivileged population who could consider this event as an unadapted use of public funds.

8-National security

As indicated by Paris 2024 committee in their application, the terrorist risk is evaluated as "high" because of the recent attacks perpetrated towards the capital, which will make security one of the key challenge of this competition and force public authorities to reassure the population. However the Euro 2016 demonstrated that it is possible to successfully organise an international event while guaranteeing its participants’ security. The re-establishment of a coherent repartition of the resources is pre-required to organise these Games, as the report by Institut Montaigne Rebuilding France’s national security (September 2016) underlines.

9-The underprivileged areas

Hosting the Olympics could be a transformative opportunity for the capital, but also for its adjoining departments, such as Seine-Saint-Denis, which will be hosting the Olympic Village in 2024. In a logic of "urban regeneration", more than 3,500 new eco-responsible housing units will be created for this occasion and will ultimately benefit the inhabitants of the department.

To be assured that those works would benefit the local population, the example of Stratford that was reconfigured in preparation for the London Olympics, must be followed: this Eastern Londoner neighbourhood, formerly antiquated, benefits today from modern and accessible infrastructures after having hosted the 2012 Olympic Village.

10-The practice of sport and well-being

With 17 million of licences awarded every year and 52% of French people affirming they practice sport at least once a week according to a poll led by BVA, sport and its benefits are more and more popular in France. The scale of such an event gives an immediate boost in the practice of sport, as it was the case in China in 2008 or in the United Kingdom in 2012 (+1.2% of the English population practised sport in October 2012 compared to October 2011, the Olympic Games having taken place in August 2012). Nevertheless, this surge is especially visible in the short term. The challenge lies in the long-term impact on the practice of sport, which must be the result of a global strategy ventured by public authorities.

The Olympic Games, a challenge as much as an opportunity

In February 2017, "only" 63% of French people supported Paris’s candidacy (they were 78% in Los Angeles). Even more worrying, 23% of the French people polled claimed they were against the Olympics. Facing this scepticism, the best solution would be organising economically, socially and ecologically sustainable games.

The application sent to the CIO is meeting those requests in a promising way, but History has proved us that the Olympics rarely meet expectations for the host country. We have seven years to make the Parisian edition the exception that proves the rule.

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