Paris, France, has long been heralded as one of the world’s most enchanting cities and a wellspring of creativity, innovation, and romance. But there’s always room for improvement, and the 2024 Olympics are the perfect opportunity. For the first time in 100 years, the City of Light will host the Games, and it’s getting a glow up to prepare.
The 2024 Games, scheduled to take place from July 26 to August 11, 2024, will include 32 sports and 329 events, including, for the first time, breaking (break dancing). Several cities in Metropolitan France and one in Tahiti, an island within French Polynesia, will host events at numerous iconic venues, with Paris at the epicenter, according to the official website. More than 10,000 Olympians and 4,400 Paralympians will compete.
Per Reuters, three months ahead of the event, the Olympic torch will be lit on April 16 in Olympia, Greece, the Games’ birthplace. After a handover ceremony in Athens, it will depart for Marseille on board a three-masted ship, the “Belem” — a break from tradition, wherein the torch is flown by plane to the host city. From here, the torch will make its way to Paris, where organizers are reportedly planning to house it on the Eiffel Tower.
The city’s most iconic monument will also be the site of the Games’ beach volleyball events, while other famous locations like Esplanade des Invalides and Place de la Concorde will host archery and breaking, respectively. And the opening ceremony will take place along the River Seine in a first-of-its-kind, open-air event.
“We’re gonna rock the boat,” Team USA track and field athlete Noah Lyles told NBC News, referring to the 160 boats that will carry athletes along the water, adding: “Gonna have the biggest party.”
The Games’ slogan, “Games wide open,” embodies a concept of “live together, play together,” chosen by officials. Along with thematic elements representing French culture and harkening to the Art Deco days in which the city last hosted, officials have pledged to make the 2024 event accessible, inclusive, and impactful for athletes, attendees, and Parisians at large, per the website.
Here’s a look at some of the ways the city is going about it.
Road and Transit Improvements
Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, is probably best known for her commitment to an “ecological transformation” of the city, according to The Guardian. This includes ensuring every road in the city is cyclable by 2024 and increasing space for pedestrians while expanding and modernizing public transport options, per the publication and the official Paris 2024 website. Moreover, officials aim to create a “tranquil zone” in the city’s historic core through a total car ban by early 2024, according to The Verge. While these and other endeavors are aimed at benefiting residents long-term, the Games have accelerated efforts.
Additionally, one of Europe’s busiest transportation hubs, Paris’ Gare du Nord, is being renovated and its routes redesigned to improve fluidity and the overall travel experience, per Actu Paris and Travel Tomorrow. Improvements include new seating and information screens, an “eco-bus station,” a bicycle hall with 1,200 secure spaces, and public green spaces. Only buses, bikes, and pedestrians will be permitted in front of the station to reduce traffic.
“With its cultural and sports facilities, its co-working spaces, its shops and its green spaces, Paris Gare du Nord station will become a shared space with a bustling, lively community,” said Hidalgo, per Travel Tomorrow.
Improvements are also being made to heighten accessibility in sporting facilities and cultural edifices, as well as the city’s public transport.
Since 1923, the River Seine has been mostly off-limits for swimming, deemed too toxic for people and most fish, the Associated Press reported in April. Though romanticized in literature, art, and across social media, the green-brown waters have primarily been used as a route for goods and boat tours, a final resting place for discarded bikes, and even a sewage dump for houseboats. But in the past few years, Paris has spent about $1.5 billion cleaning up the river, per the AP.
Measures include a 2018 law mandating moored boats hook up to the city’s sewage network; improvements to water treatment plants; and the creation of storage basins and other public works to prevent untreated wastewater from spilling into the river through storm drains.
Already, officials have deemed the water quality suitable for swimming events, according to NBC. And there are now “many more types of fish than the two or three species that were the only ones hardy enough to survive in the filth a few decades ago,” per the AP. After facilitating some of the Games’ most-watched competitions (including marathon swimming and the swimming legs of the Olympic and Paralympic triathlons), the river is set to reopen to the public in the summer of 2025.
“It will create waves, so to speak, across the world because a lot of cities are watching Paris,” said Dan Angelescu, a scientist tracking the Seine’s water quality. “It’s the beginning of a movement. We hope so, at least.”
Dubbed the second most romantic city in the world by Travel and Leisure in 2016, Paris is also becoming even more beautiful in time for the Olympic Games, with several endeavors taking place. These include refurbishment of the La Chapelle area and renovations on the Champs-Elysees, according to Sortir a Paris, as well as the modernization of the Saint-Denis and Pleyel neighborhoods.
The Champs-Elysees, though revered globally as “the most beautiful avenue in the world,” now serves as more of a highway, according to Euro News. But plans are in place to give the promenade an aesthetic overhaul to transform it into a “green oasis,” beginning with a facelift for the Place de la Concorde by summer 2024, when it will serve as an open arena, per the Paris 2024 website. Afterward, the project will continue to transform the entire area into an “extraordinary garden” with about 400 new trees, expanded pedestrian walkways, and refurbished terraces.
Additionally, the Eiffel Tower is receiving a facelift of its own. The magnificent monument, which opened in 1889, has been painted 19 times in different colors over the years, according to Travel and Leisure and the tower’s official website. Now, to prepare it for the Games and ensure its long-term conservation, painters are deep-cleaning, stripping, and repainting the monument in a (fitting) dazzling gold hue.
Paving stones, a quintessential facet of French cities since the Middle Ages, are another part of beautification efforts. “The Games will be seen on each of those paving stones, whether you’re a host city or celebrating while wearing the colors of the [Paris 2024] look,” according to Olympics.com. Each will be adorned with a symbol of sport, an emblematic place, or celebration of the French way of life.
Ultimately, many people, including Hidalgo, envision the Games as a chance to revitalize the city and cement its position as one of the world’s most beloved metropolises.
Said Mayor Hidalgo: “In 2024, the Games will put Paris on the Seine [scene].”