'It won't be Games as usual': Paris Olympics Organising Committee president Tony Estanguet - Hindustan Times
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'It won't be Games as usual': Paris Olympics Organising Committee president Tony Estanguet

May 23, 2024 02:46 PM IST

Tony Estanguet is a triple world champion in canoeing. He is also the first French athlete to have won gold medals in three different Olympic Games.

In 2017, Tony Estanguet became the president of Paris Olympics Organising Committee, two years after leading the French capital's bid for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Paris had lost all its earlier five bids to host the Games. A triple world champion in canoeing, Estanguet is the first French athlete to have won gold medals in three different Olympic Games (Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and London 2012). The slalom canoeist was also France's flag-bearer at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. After taking over as Paris 2024 chief, the former member of the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes Commission promised a spectacular event with people at the centre. When the Games open on July 26, his promise will be put to test. In an interview on the sidelines of the 77th Cannes Film Festival, where the Olympic torch ascended on its famous red carpet on May 21, Estanguet talks to Faizal Khan on the Games' preparations and how Paris 2024 will be an innovative edition.

Tony Estanguet is the Paris Olympics Organising Committee president.
Tony Estanguet is the Paris Olympics Organising Committee president.

With only two months to go, how is the Organising Committee readying for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games?

We started the journey ten years ago. It is definitely a mammoth task to deliver the Olympic Games. It has been a huge journey for all of us in France to be ready on time and offer one of the best celebrations of our country in front of billions of people around the world. I am proud of what has been done so far about innovations for Paris 2024.

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France's Minister for Sports and Olympics Amelie Oudea-Castera (L) and President of the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics Organising Committee (Cojo) Tony Estanguet smile prior to the start of an interview.(AFP)
France's Minister for Sports and Olympics Amelie Oudea-Castera (L) and President of the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics Organising Committee (Cojo) Tony Estanguet smile prior to the start of an interview.(AFP)

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What were the steps taken to rally the whole of France behind the Games?

Many places in the country have contributed to the success of the Games. The Olympic torch, which arrived in Cannes this week, is a fantastic symbol because we feel that in each city we go, there is a flavour of the magic power of the Games. We continue, we fight and we still have 63 days before the beginning of the Olympics. We feel confident so far. We have demonstrated that we controlled the time and controlled the budget. It is complex, but France is ready for Paris 2024.

France's President Emmanuel Macron (Centre L) speaks with President of the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics Organising Committee (Cojo) Tony Estanguet (centre R).(AFP)
France's President Emmanuel Macron (Centre L) speaks with President of the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics Organising Committee (Cojo) Tony Estanguet (centre R).(AFP)

When you became head of the Paris Olympics Organising Committee in 2017, you promised a spectacular Games.

It is very important for the Games from the first moment when people will realise what will happen at the opening ceremony and during the event. It has to be at the level of the ambition of Paris 2024. That is why we really wanted to have a kind of innovation right from the opening ceremony. The whole project is part of innovation. The opening ceremony has to demonstrate that it won't be Games as usual.

How different will the Olympics and Paralympics be this time?

It will be different. For the first time the opening ceremony will not be in a stadium, but in the city welcomed by hundreds of thousands of people. The idea is to showcase the best of France and we believe that the best platform to welcome the athletes of the world is not inside the stadium, but in the city. That is the signature of Paris 2024. There will be Games in the city, at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Grand Palais and the Versailles Palace. All these iconic landmarks will be celebrated during the Games. From the opening ceremony onwards, the people will understand that it will not be the usual Games.

The countdown clock, near the Eiffel Tower shows 100 days to go until the Paris 2024 Olympic Games opening ceremony.(REUTERS)
The countdown clock, near the Eiffel Tower shows 100 days to go until the Paris 2024 Olympic Games opening ceremony.(REUTERS)

What will the opening ceremony look like?

It will be a show of around three hours, maybe a little more. It is a kind of parade of the athletes around the Seine river on 90 boats. We will do the parade on the Seine on a six-kilometre journey. The parade will cross Paris from East to West and finish in front of the Eiffel Tower. It is going to be very promising. It is not the easiest way to organise an opening ceremony. I remember when I was an athlete, it was never easy to win a gold medal. So we fight and we work hard.

Inauguration of the "Franchissement Urbain Pleyel" pedestrian footbridge connecting the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic athletes' village to Olympic event venues.(AFP)
Inauguration of the "Franchissement Urbain Pleyel" pedestrian footbridge connecting the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic athletes' village to Olympic event venues.(AFP)

You are in Cannes for the arrival of the Olympic torch and to announce the official movie of the Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games.

French para athlete Alexis Hanquinquant holds the Olympic Torch before the screening of the film "Marcello Mio" at the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes.(AFP)
French para athlete Alexis Hanquinquant holds the Olympic Torch before the screening of the film "Marcello Mio" at the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes.(AFP)

The official movie will tell this unique journey of Paris 2024. Our job is to organise the Games and the job of Jules Naudet and Gédéon Naudet -- French filmmakers selected by the International Olympic Committee to make the official movie of Paris 2024 -- is to share this with the maximum number of people. We are proud to have the support of the Naudet brothers. Definitely they will be the ones who will tell the incredible story of Paris 2024.

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