French President Emmanuel Macron launched the 500-day countdown to the 2024 Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games on Tuesday, updating the public on his government’s hopes for the Games, including the ambitious use of the Seine.
Macron addressed hundreds of officials in a “thank you speech” at Paris police headquarters, saying although plans are moving forward “nothing should be taken as collateral”.
“We have only 500 short days left that separate us from the extraordinary events that are the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games, (where) we will host the world,” Macron said.
In the speech and on Twitter, Macron thanked the 45,000 volunteers who rallied to make the Games “a success” and again trumpeted the 5,000 new sports fields that are in the works. Officials are pushing to have infrastructure and sites ready on time, with projects marring many of Paris’s boulevards.
Making the Seine swimmable
Macron also referred to the ambitious 1.4 billion euro plan to clean up the polluted waters of Paris’ main river artery.
“The Seine and Marne (rivers) will be made suitable for swimming,” he said.
Several events will be held in the Seine, including the 10km swimming marathon, in a mirror of the first Paris Olympics in 1900.
Macron also hopes to ditch tradition by holding the opening ceremony on the water in an ambitious plan that will see boats float on the Seine near the Eiffel Tower, while millions watch.
Great demand for tickets
The budget of the Paris Games is 4.4 billion euros, according to an official of the Elysee who spoke anonymously in accordance with the customs of the French presidency.
“The first phase of ticket sales is encouraging,” the Elysée 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 the assurance of funds for the Paris Games will be on the right track.
Macron has yet to weigh Ukraine-led calls for a blanket ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes.