Paris council clears way for 2024 Olympic bid

AP News
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Posted: Apr 13, 2015 8:11 AM
Paris council clears way for 2024 Olympic bid

Paris took a decisive step toward a bid for the 2024 Olympics on Monday when the city council approved a resolution in favor of bringing the games back to the French capital for the first time in 100 years.

The bid, which is expected to receive the final go-ahead from the national government by the end of June, is supported by French President Francois Hollande, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and the Paris region.

"This is an historical vote which marks an important moment of our collective life," said Hidalgo, who was first skeptical but embraced the project after a feasibility study was released in February. "We are now committed to the Olympic adventure."

The mayor's resolution was adopted by a show of hands and followed by a round of applause, despite opposition from the Green Party members.

Bernard Lapasset, who heads the French Committee for International Sport and is expected to lead the Paris bid, told The Associated Press that Hollande will meet with IOC president Thomas Bach on Thursday during his state visit to Switzerland. Hollande will be accompanied by French IOC members Tony Estanguet and Guy Drut.

"This is another good signal after the decision of the Paris council, which was actually more a massive approval than a vote," Lapasset said in a telephone interview. "But we need to keep a cool head and keep working hard."

The resolution stipulates that the city will join the national Olympic committee, the state and the region in an association aimed at finalizing the bid project. It says the bid should be led by athletes and would benefit the country's struggling economy. The association, which has a budget of 2 million euros ($2.1 million), will meet for the first time on Wednesday.

"The chances for an official Paris bid have been strengthened by this association," said Jean-Paul Huchon, the region president. "Now we need to make sure the bid brings economic and cultural benefits to the whole people of the region and France."

Paris last hosted the Olympics in 1924 and mounted unsuccessful bids for the 1992, 2008 and 2012 Games. The city has until Sept. 15 to submit its candidacy to the International Olympic Committee.

Boston, Rome and Hamburg, Germany, are the declared 2024 candidates so far.

Other potential contenders include Budapest, Hungary; Baku, Azerbaijan; Istanbul, Turkey; and Doha, Qatar. The IOC will choose the host city in 2017.

Hildalgo said hosting the games in Paris would also help make the northern suburbs of the Seine Saint-Denis region more accessible.

The infrastructure budget has been estimated at 3 billion euros ($4.5 billion), with operational costs of 3.2 billion euros ($4.8 billion). Hidalgo's deputy for sport, Jean-Francois Martins, said the cost of bidding would reach 60 million euros ($63 million), with part of the budget likely to be obtained through crowd funding.

"Sport has given Paris its shape, and it should keep doing so," Martins said.

The Green Party is opposed to the bid mainly for financial reasons. David Belliard, the group's president in the Paris Council, said the budget for the 2012 London Olympics was double the initial forecast of 5 billion euros ($5.3 billion) while vice president Anne Sourys called the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi an "environmental disaster in the midst of the Ukrainian crisis."

Estanguet, who attended Monday's vote, earlier said existing infrastructure would be at the heart of the project. The Stade de France, a new cycling track on the outskirts of Paris, the Roland Garros tennis stadium and many Parisian landmarks including the Grand Palais and Champ de Mars are likely to be used.

The main construction requirements for the bid include an aquatics center, Olympic village and media center.

France decided not to bid for the 2020 Olympics after Annecy was humiliated in the race for the 2018 Winter Games, receiving only seven votes in an election won by Pyeongchang, South Korea.