PARIS (Reuters) – Paris will be ready to host the 2024 Olympics even if the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing as organisers have been working on contingency plans, Tony Estanguet, the head of the organising committee, said on Tuesday.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics were postponed by a year and organisers are facing a tough challenge to host the sporting extravaganza this July and August as the COVID-19 crisis rages on.
Speaking to Reuters at the Eiffel Tower, Estanguet said that Paris 2024 is preparing for any eventuality.
“When you organise events like this, you try to anticipate, but nobody could imagine that COVID-19 would create such a mess in our lives. We can predict a lot of things, but not this,” he said.
“What’s interesting is to see how we can react to unpredictable events. As early as last year, we had to re-organise and work on a new concept, in terms of competition sites, for instance, to see how we could adapt to a new context.
“In the end in a few months we managed to propose a project that was still ambitious and generated some savings. That’s the mindset we’re in. There’s no official plan B but we’re identifying the risks and the solutions. And we will be working on this until the end because risks constantly evolve.”
Asked if organisers would be ready to host the Games in 2024 if the situation was similar to this year, Estanguet said: “There are solutions.”
KEEP CALM AND STAY FOCUSED
With the 2020 Olympics delayed by a year, there were fears that the sharing of information between Tokyo and Paris would be impacted.
Estanguet, however, insisted both organising committees had been in constant contact, allowing the French to learn valuable lessons from their Japanese counterparts in terms of COVID-19 crisis management.
“Since 2018, we’ve been exchanging on security, transport, ticketing, volunteering – we’ve been sharing information for three years now and we’ve been benefiting from all the measures they set up last year,” he explained.
“Even if the Games have not happened yet, we’ve learnt a lot from Tokyo already.”
Preparations for sporting events can be severely disrupted by COVID-19 restrictions, as tennis players have recently discovered by going through a strict two-week quarantine ahead of tournaments in Australia.
Yet according to Estanguet, the Olympic Games are an athlete’s dream and the participants will be ready to adapt.
“Mentally it’s very tough. All of a sudden, you cannot train in good conditions, or at all, but it’s the great champions’ strength to adapt better than anyone else to a new context,” he said.
“They will need to keep calm and stay focused.”
The surfing competition at Paris 2024 will take place in Tahiti, almost 8,000 kilometres from the French capital, an exception in an otherwise compact Games.
“From an ecological point of view, it emerged that Tahiti was the site that had the smallest carbon impact,” said Estanguet.
“Tahiti guarantees that we will have waves and most athletes will be coming from South America, Australia or North America.
“From a sporting point of view it was by far the best choice.”
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis)