PARIS (AP) — Paris Olympic bid leaders believe they have found a strong ally in France's new president, Emmanuel Macron.
As they get ready for an International Olympic Committee inspection panel visit later this week, Paris officials think Macron's victory over populist far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the presidential runoff is giving extra guarantees to the IOC about their dossier's sturdiness.
"The head of state's role is important and Emmanuel Macron is the leader we needed to embody the state's commitment," Paris bid leader Tony Estanguet said Wednesday. "He is a young and dynamic leader open to the world, and he wants to make France win abroad. Those are the values we're defending. It's easy for us to ride that wave."
Currently in Los Angeles to assess the LA bid, members of the IOC will land in Paris on Saturday to inspect the city's planned venues and meet with French bid leaders. Estanguet said Macron is likely to meet with the IOC delegation at some point during the three-day visit.
"The head of state told us he wanted to have a moment with the members of the evaluation commission," said Estanguet, adding that Macron has been supporting the bid since he was Economy Minister from 2014-16 under President Francois Hollande.
Macron might find a slot in his busy agenda on Sunday night at a gala dinner involving athletes and IOC members, but Paris officials said the president-elect has yet to confirm the date. Macron will officially take over from Hollande on Sunday.
The pro-business Macron's election could, however, have a negative impact on Paris' image if he goes ahead with his planned reform of the labor code this summer, a move likely to trigger massive street protests ahead of the IOC vote in Peru.
"My role is to convince IOC members not to get involved in a debate on labor law," Estanguet said.
Los Angeles and Paris are the only two bidders left for the 2024 Games, which will be awarded in September at a meeting of Olympic leaders in Peru. The race began with five cities, but Rome, Hamburg, Germany, and Budapest, Hungary, all pulled out.
With both cities boasting strong technical bids, the main discussions in recent weeks have focused on the possibility for the IOC to award the 2024 and 2028 Games — one for each city — in Lima, in a so called "win-win" scenario. IOC President Thomas Bach has previously said he wants to avoid producing so many losers in the multimillion-dollar Olympic-bidding game.
Both Paris and Los Angeles have made clear they are only interested in competing for 2024, although Paris CEO Etienne Thobois said he remains open to the discussion.
"We think it's a very good initiative from the IOC," Thobois said. "We want to be IOC partners."
Paris, which last staged the Olympics in 1924, is bidding on the compactness of its plans to make the difference. According to the bid dossier, 84 percent of the athletes will be able to reach their competition venues in less than 25 minutes because the Olympic Stadium and aquatics center would be within 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) of the proposed village.
More than 70 percent of the proposed venues are existing facilities, with a further 25 percent being temporary structures. The main construction requirements for the bid include an aquatics center close to the Stade de France, a new indoor arena in the southern Bercy neighborhood, the Olympic village and media center. Paris officials are also promising there won't be any white elephants and that 100 percent of the venues will have a real legacy.
The Paris bid is promising limited spending and long-lasting benefits. The infrastructure budget for the games is expected to total 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion), with operational costs of 3.2 billion euros ($3.4 billion), and Paris bid documents state that 50 percent of tickets for the Olympics will cost less than 50 euros ($54).
"The main idea is to show (IOC members) that we are ready," Estanguet said. "The venues are extraordinary, we don't need to show off. We need to stay authentic because we have nothing to hide."