By Robert Harneis –TDO- (FRANCE) Ever since the Second World War governments have battled to host the Summer Olympics. International prestige, increased tourism and an excuse to splurge money on infrastructure is the motivation. Now that Los Angeles has decided to go for 2028 the way is clear for the French capital Paris to host the 2024 games.
Inevitably the youngish and trendy new President Emmanuel Macron is enthusiastic and French taxpayers have been assured that the customary gigantic bill will be a mere €6.6 billion. Compared with London at €15 billion and €40 billion for Beijing, it is truly a flea bite. That is the estimate but what will the final figure be, ask those taxpayers who are not completely sports mad? Not a few are curious to explain the sudden availability of these billions when the France’s armed forces and the homeless have just had their budgets cut. They will not be reassured to learn that since 1960 the average cost overrun has been a trifling 176%. The overruns for Athens in 2004 was 49%, with 51% for Rio in 2016 and 76% for London in 2012. Precise figures for China in 2008 are hard to come by.
The budget is in two parts. Half is for the organization and for the temporary structures and is relatively controllable. London actually made a profit on this part of the games from very successful ticket sales. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will provide €1.45 billion and ticket sales and sponsoring should each generate €1 billion.
It is the budget for permanent new facilities that tend to escape sensible control with last minute ‘essential’ projects doing the damage. For this €3.3 billion seems a little light. The justification for the figure is the argument that much of the required facilities already exist and Paris has already spent a lot of money on improving its transport system. We shall see.
It is often the bill for improved transport facilities that generate heavy and unexpected expenditure. This was the case in Sochi and Beijing with new airports. For London, the decision to build a new metro line into the East End and to rehabilitate a complete urban area did the damage.
The Parisian organizers remain optimistic despite the slightly unnerving fact that three competing cities withdrew from the bidding. Rome for openly financial reasons and Hamburg and Budapest as a result of referenda and public pressure based on financial fears amongst the electorate.
France had hoped to organize the 2012 Summer Olympics but were unexpectedly out voted at the last minute at the IOC conference in 2005 where the games were awarded to London. This was considered at the time as a diplomatic smack on the wrist organized by an angry Washington still fuming over the outspoken French opposition in the United Nations to the invasion of Iraq in January 2003. The IOC naturally disputes this version.
Events will be spread across France in Marseille, Lyon, Saint-Etienne, Bordeaux, Lille, Toulouse and Nice. The games will be definitively awarded to Paris, as sole candidate, in September when the IOC conference takes place. France will be only the second country after London to host the games three times.
Until then do not expect any dramatic initiatives by French diplomats that might conceivably irritate Washington.