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Exclusive: Olympics - Green Paris bid pledges to slash carbon emissions

By Karolos Grohmann

By Karolos Grohmann

BERLIN (Reuters) - The Paris 2024 Olympics bid committee is proposing a strong eco-friendly plan that will slash carbon emissions by more than half compared to the last two Games in London and Rio.

Speaking to Reuters on Tuesday, three days before the third part of their bid book is submitted to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), bid co-president Tony Estanguet said Paris had placed sustainability at the top of its list of priorities.

The French capital is bidding for the Olympics along with Los Angeles and Budapest, with the IOC set to select the winning candidate in September.

"For us it is quite simple. Our vision is the most sustainable Games ever," Estanguet said in an interview, adding that the bid was in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gases.

Estanguet said that a Games held in France would produce an estimated 1.56 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, down 55 percent from the roughly 3.42 million tonnes created by the Rio 2016 and the London 2012 Games.

"The experts we used to asses the project are exactly the same ones who evaluated the carbon footprint for the past Games," the three-time Olympic canoeing champion and IOC member said.

The use of existing venues and temporary structures has helped Estanguet believe that the bid's goal was realistic, with the construction of an aquatics center regarded as the only new major legacy project.

Public or shared transport would be used for 100 percent of spectators while 85 percent of athletes would be housed within 30 minutes of their competition venues.

"We have a very strong concept. We will also have low carbon installations for the rare venues we have to build and we will use specific materials to reduce the overall carbon footprint," he said.

CONTRASTING CONCEPTS

"We also have all the infrastructure -- roads, hotels, airports -- already in place. That allows us to claim we will be the most sustainable Games ever."

The IOC passed a series of reforms in 2014 called Agenda 2020, aimed at making the Games more attractive to future hosts after a string of candidate cities withdrew due to the sheer size and costs of organizing such an ambitious project.

The 2024 campaign has already witnessed several withdrawals, with Hamburg, Boston and Rome dropping out of the running.

The remaining cities are pitching contrasting concepts to the IOC, with Paris offering a compact Games in a city that last hosted the Olympics in 1924.

Two-time hosts Los Angeles is highlighting its "risk-free" plan, with the vast majority of venues and athletes' villages already in place, and minimal construction required.

Budapest is proposing a model for a medium-sized city as a choice that offers an alternative to traditional big cities of the past, paving the way for new potential bidders.

"For us the legacy of the Games will not be in equipment. We want to invest our money, time, energy in leaving a legacy for people in the way of educating them," Estanguet added.

"We want more people to practice sport and... during the seven years (of preparations), we want to educate people on sustainability."

(Editing by John O'Brien)