Urban Journalism Institute

Paris 2024


Amid an Olympic year, Paris is gearing up to host its third Games, following the footsteps of 1900 and 1924. Only London has matched this feat, organising three Games in 1908, 1948, and 2012. Looking ahead, Los Angeles will join this exclusive club in 2028, after hosting in 1932 and 1984.

Commencing with the 2024 Games and extending through 2032, a unique period awaits, with Brisbane set to host the last ones. This span will spotlight three cities committed to sustainability and city diplomacy, emphasising the crucial role of cities and local territories in a landscape overshadowed by national geopolitics.

Paris is a leader in implementing several sustainability agendas, and the most important is its integrating approach to how cities should face climate change. It has also been a key factor in city diplomacy and multilateral spaces, advocating for local governments to sit at the decision-making table, not just as guests. 

©Florian Hulleu. Paris 2024

Anne Hidalgo, the current mayor and the recent recipient of the 2023 ULI Award for Visionaries in Urban Development, has been leading these efforts since 2014, following her predecessor, Bertrand Delanoë, who was mayor from 2001 to 2014. Hidalgo was the Deputy Mayor of Delanoë from 2001, meaning she has been in a top management position in the French capital for 23 years. Not many could understand, as she does, what it means to organise these Games to ensure a legacy for Parisian and global citizens.

The city at the core of the narrative

If there was doubt about Paris seizing this unique opportunity to convey a message, it was dispelled when the plans for the Opening Ceremony were unveiled. For the first time, it will not happen inside the Olympic Stadium. On 26 July 2024, athletes will parade along the Seine River on boats designated for each national delegation, equipped with cameras to provide viewers and online audiences a close-up look at the athletes. The six-kilometre journey will conclude in front of the Trocadero, a neighbourhood near the Eiffel Tower, where the remaining elements of the Olympic protocol and final shows will unfold. 

Whether it’s the iconic image of the trampoline jumper with the Sagrada Familia in the background of Barcelona ‘92, the architectural marvels of stadiums and sports infrastructures, or the marathon runners traversing the streets of Olympic cities mirroring the run of Pheidippides from Marathon to Athens to deliver news of Greek victory to the Athenians, the Paris 2024 Olympic Games are destined to become one of those historic images.

With the Seine as the focal point of the Games and hosting both the Opening Ceremony and some competitions, along with other iconic Parisian landmarks like the Champ de Mars or the Trocadero, the event draws closer to Parisians. They can enjoy it in an accessible manner, right from the heart of the city, now with a significance that will develop new forms of relationship between citizens and the public space they inhabit. This is a way to capitalise on sanitation and regeneration actions to improve the city, involve the space and imbue it with a message that will endure for decades. 

Other open-air venues and buildings at the heart of the city will be the Place de la Concorde, the Esplanade des Invalides, or the Grand Palais, this last one with competitions such as fencing or taekwondo. But the Games will also have venues around the Ile-de-France region, from Les Yvelines to Hauts-de-Seine, Seine-et-Marne and Seine-Saint-Denis. This last one will be home to the Olympic and Paralympic Village, the Media Village and six sports. 

Everyone expects more surprises during the Opening Ceremony, those that can send a message of peace, solidarity, and hope. The values connected with the Olympic Movement are always highlighted in the prime moments of the Olympics, and it is probably going to be even more evident in Paris, given the current global context and in a city that has not looked away from its commitments and responsibilities in the last decades.

A not-so-clear value of gender equality in the origins of the Olympic Movement has also been one of the goals of Paris organisers and the IOC. We will undoubtedly see more on this topic during the Opening Ceremony. In a bid to meet the standards required for an international organisation, the IOC launched a plan in 2021 to consolidate the Olympic Games as one of the most influential global platforms for promoting gender equality. By 2022, the IOC Executive Board achieved gender parity, with 50 per cent of the positions held by women. The IOC is also advocating for joint male and female flagbearers. This was also a request in the Tokyo Games, and 91 per cent of the participating national committees complied.

The IOC Refugee Olympic Team will also be a star at the opening, reminding us of the dramatic experience of displacement for millions of people. Athletes from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, South Sudan, and Syria will compete under the International Olympic Committee flag. 

The visual pleasure of the moment and the milestone in broadcasting history, with the complexity of covering an open space and the river as the centre, will focus on the powerful and meaningful message that Paris will undoubtedly convey.

Hidalgo will, in any case, face the post-Games depression when the world stage has moved on. It becomes challenging for citizens to comprehend the extensive efforts, represented mainly by red numbers, investing in such an endeavour. This could be an opportune time to elucidate how much local authorities spend on servicing citizens daily and how little they receive from the national government. These Olympics should showcase what some cities are doing for the benefit of all, exemplifying Paris’s long-term commitment to the environmental and social agenda.

Cofounded by the European Union This publication was produced with the financial support of the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of UCLG and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.