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Foreword to Pocketbook Edition for the 2024 Olympics

Updated: Apr 19

100 years after its last appearance in Paris, the Olympic Flame returns to the City of Light, becoming only the second city, along with London, to host the contemporary Olympic Games for the third time. The 2024 Games will feature a total of 329 events across 28 core sports as defined by the Olympic Committee, plus three optional sports that featured at the 2020/2021 Games in Tokyo: Skateboarding, Sport-climbing and Surfing. A 32nd and new competition debuts in Paris in the form of an old favorite night-club routine of mine: Breakdancing (officially called “Breaking” and known locally as le break or le smurfing if you want to sound hip with les jeunes). Venues for the 2024 Games will include classic city landmarks like the Place de la Concorde, Le Grand Palais, the Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides, not to mention the Château de Versailles and the River Seine itself which provides a unique setting for the elaborately-conceived opening ceremony.


Established temples of sport including Roland Garros, the Parc des Princes and the Stade de France will all host events, combined with a score of locations spread across the capital and its suburbs. Five-ring aficionados will also be drawn to venues in Bordeaux, Lille, Marseille, Nantes and Nice; and fans with Miles to spare might even consider popping over to Teahupo’o in Tahiti, which is the spectacular venue for the Surfing event and (at 15,815 kilometres away) sets a new Olympic record for a venue furthest distance from the host city! 


The opening ceremony on July 26th will possibly see another record broken with an estimated 300,000 visitors expected to line the banks of the Seine for what is being billed as the largest of its type in the modern Games and the first not to take place in a stadium. A colorful flag-bedecked flotilla of team boats is due to carry the 10,500 athletes from over 150 National Olympic Committee delegations across a 6-kilometre route starting at the Pont d’Austerlitz, moving slowly down-river past the Île Saint-Louis and the Île de la Cité, then on to the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay, finishing at the Pont d’Iéna opposite the Place de la Trocadéro. Seated and standing places are available (some at very elevated prices) and expect to see many more craning their necks from friends’ balconies along the serpentine route. All of this is caveated, however, with 2024-style contingency plans to either scale down the ceremony to just the Trocadéro section of the river, or even move it entirely to the Stade France (c’est l’époque! as the locals are prone to say). Athletes representing the host nation in 2024 will also be looking to leverage home advantage in the medal count and recent Games suggest they should expect a boost, with Japan finishing on the podium three years ago in third place with 27 Gold medals, following China in second place on 38 Gold and the USA finishing in first place with 39 Gold and 113 medals overall. France won 10 Gold in Tokyo (and 33 medals in total) and no doubt we will be hearing “Allez les Bleus!” quite a bit this summer. There are 5,084 medals up for grabs during this year’s Olympics (July 26th until August 11th) and Paralympics (August 28th to September 8th) and indeed much publicity has been generated by the medals themselves, designed by legendary Paris jewelers Chaumet and produced at La Monnaie, France’s national mint. Each medal features a small hexagonal-shaped metal remnant of the Eiffel Tower stamped with the distinctive logo of the 2024 Games (which, in case you hadn’t figured it out by now, is the silhouette of an old flame). Athletes fortunate enough to get their hands on one will literally be returning home with a precious piece of Paris in their pocket for posterity.  


Flaneurs not in the running for a medal can settle for one of the curious souvenir mascots known as Les Phryges (yes, pronounced just like the kitchen appliance that keeps your beverages cool). History buffs will be keen to point out that the little creatures derive from the French revolutionary headwear inspired by a felt cap known as a pileus, worn by freed Roman slaves in a sartorial nod to Libertas, goddess of freedom. It is a topic, along with politics in general, that the organizers will hope is transcended this summer, as the Olympic spirit is surely about bringing people together to celebrate the common interests of sport and games and indeed all divertissements that offer respite from the vicissitudes of our hyper-evolving world. Flaneurs visiting Paris this year will also be keen to take in the many sites spruced up across the city for the Games, including a root and branch restoration of Le Grand Palais and the reopening of Cathédral Notre-Dame de Paris. And what about all the other off-the-beaten-path hidey-holes waiting for you to explore? Look no further than this latest edition of A Flaneur’s Guide, covering the best of both Left and Right Banks and presented here in Pocketbook size for those traveling light and ready to meet the people, places and pastimes that make up Lutetia Parisiorum in this centenary Olympic year.

Bons Baisers de Paname,

richardb

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