May 15, 2017 / 5:11 PM / 2 years ago

Olympics: Village is key to Paris bid's focus on 2024

PARIS (Reuters) - Paris’s plans for an Olympic Village will work for 2024 but cannot be put on hold for the Games in 2028, bid officials said on Monday.

An illustration picture shows the logo of the Paris candidacy for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games at the Grand Palais during the press tour of the International Olympic Committee Evaluation Commission, in Paris, May 15, 2017. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/Illustration

“We are committed with the public authorities on this project for 2024. After that, it is not guaranteed,” Paris 2024 co-leader Tony Estanguet told a news conference.

Paris 2024 has been putting pressure on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as the governing body is considering awarding the 2024 and 2028 Olympics at the same time, with the only question being who, between Paris and its only rival Los Angeles, gets to stage the sports extravaganza first.

While Los Angeles has opened the door to hosting the 2028 Games, Paris has been standing its ground as the IOC evaluation commission conducts a three-day visit to the French capital.

“We are well advanced with the village plans,” Paris 2024 deputy chief Michael Aloisio said.

“We cannot freeze and sideline this for four years. Everything has been launched and everything is in motion, so we really want to stick to that timeline.”

Construction of the proposed Olympic village had already started in the northern suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis and could not be frozen as the buildings would be needed for housing immediately after the Games, bid officials said.

“It was not easy to find a venue for the village but we made no compromise as we wanted to find a location that would perfectly suit the athletes,” Estanguet said.

“The village is also serving the area — we want exceptional Games but we also want them to help the area, to leave a legacy.”

The village is expected to be converted into some 3,500 housing units as local authorities seek to boost the area.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said: “We believe in the regeneration of this area, there is a need for houses.”

The evaluation commission visited the construction site of the 1.8-billion-dollar project on Monday and chairman Patrick Baumann said afterwards: “It is well located, near the competition sites.

“We also spoke with the architect who explained how the housing project would be done. We received enough guarantees.”

By 2024 the venue, next to the Cite du Cinema in Saint-Denis, will be right next to a public transport hub, meaning it should be about 20 minutes from the heart of Paris.

The evaluation commission also toured the venues, which are within a 40-km radius of the proposed village, with athletes presenting each site to them.

“We felt the enthusiasm, the passion for the Games,” said Baumann who, when asked to compare Monday’s experience with his visit to the Los Angeles venues last week, said it was ‘equally mind-blowing’.

The commission will meet French president Emmanuel Macron, a fervent Paris 2024 supporter who took power on Sunday, at the Elysee Palace on Tuesday.

The IOC vote will be held in Lima on Sept. 13.

Editing by Clare Fallon

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