PARIS (AP) – French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday began a 500-day countdown to the 2024 Paris Olympics and Paralympics, informing the public of his government’s hopes for the Games, including an ambitious use of the Seine River.
Macron addressed hundreds of officials during a “speech of thanks” at Paris police headquarters, saying that while plans were moving forward, “nothing should be taken as a guarantee.”
“We are only 500 short days away from extraordinary events: the Olympics and the Paralympics, (where) we are going to host the world,” Macron said.
In a speech and on Twitter, Macron thanked the 45,000 volunteers mobilizing to make the games a “success” and trumpeted again the 5,000 new sports pitches being developed. Officials are scrambling to get the infrastructure and sites ready on time as the projects take over many boulevards in Paris.
Macron also referred to an ambitious 1.4 billion euro ($1.5 billion) plan to clean up the polluted waters of Paris’ main river artery.
“The Seine and Marne (rivers) will be made swimmable,” he said.
Several events are to be held on the Seine, including a 10-kilometer swimming marathon, mirroring the first Olympic Games in Paris in 1900.
Macron also hopes to break with tradition by holding the opening ceremony on the water in an ambitious plan that will see craft floating on the Seine near the Eiffel Tower as millions watch.
The budget for the Paris Games is 4.4 billion euros ($4.7 billion), according to an Elysée official who spoke anonymously in accordance with French presidential custom. Ticket sales are a significant part of the revenue, at least a third, that Paris organizers have to pay for the Olympics, he said.
“The first round of ticket sales is encouraging,” said an Elysée official. He added that strong demand for tickets in the first round of sales earlier this month, when more than 3 million tickets were sold, had made Macron confident that securing funds for the Paris Games was the right thing to do.
Macron has yet to discuss the Ukrainian-led appeal to Russian and Belarusian athletes. ___ Additional AP Olympics. https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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