How many spectators will be able to see the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on the Seine on July 26, 2024 for free? “Several hundred thousand people,” replied Gérald Darmanin on Tuesday, without wanting to be more precise, while the figure of 400,000, on the decline, has been circulating for months.
Fourteen months from this unprecedented outdoor ceremony, the event desired by both the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron and the PS mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo remains “an artistic and organizational challenge”, according to Ms. Hidalgo.
Along six kilometers of the river, 115 boats will sail, with delegations of athletes, from the Pont d’Austerliz to the Pont d’Iéna, in the presence of heads of state and government from around the world. A first for the Olympics, but also an event that gives police officials cold sweats.
On the low quays, closest to the water, 100,000 places are put up for sale between 90 and 2,700 euros by the organizing committee (Cojo). On the high quays, the show will be free. Questioned on Tuesday during the signing of the security protocol on the ceremony, the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, repeated the figure of 600,000 for the global gauge announced a few months ago.
But, relaunched on the part of free spectators, he replied twice “several hundred thousand people”. Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra had however recently assured that a figure “around 400,000” would soon be announced. She had also insisted on these free spectators while a controversy has swelled since this winter on the prices deemed prohibitive for tickets.
“In the process of being refined”
The senators also mentioned the figure of “400,000 spectators who will be able to attend the ceremony free of charge from the high quays”, in the report of a progress report by the Senate Olympics Monitoring Mission published this week.
Several months ago, the LR president of the Ile-de-France region, Valérie Pécresse, who started a standoff with the State on transport, had officially requested a lowering of this gauge, fearing that public transport cannot absorb the crowd.
Since then, both the president of the Cojo, Tony Estanguet, the Minister of Sports or the elected officials repeated in chorus: “the gauge is being refined”.
Behind the scenes, the discussions are tough between, on the one hand, the town hall of Paris and the Cojo eager for a big popular festival where onlookers walk freely, and on the other the police headquarters which wants to manage pockets of spectators by sectors.
The quays will be divided into 15 or 20 sections, police and political sources told AFP. This organization was not detailed on Tuesday.
Mr. Darmanin did not specify the cost of securing the opening ceremony but assured that in total, for the Ministry of the Interior, the cost of security for the Olympics represented “200 million euros “. A “first estimate” of a pre-report from the Court of Auditors in the summer of 2022 mentioned “419 million euros” for state security expenditure (in the broad sense).
On the other hand, he announced that the Ministry of the Interior would manage and “finance” the compulsory registration platform to access these high platforms.
The ceremony will start at 8:24 p.m. on July 26, 2024, and will last “three hours”, said Gérald Darmanin alongside Tony Estanguet, with a “river parade”, “an artistic spectacle” and a protocol ceremony”. a “thirty boats” dedicated to security, said Mr. Darmanin, as well as personnel from the Ministry of the Interior on the boats of the delegations.
On the artistic aspect, the secret is also well kept.
The latest version was recently presented to the International Olympic Committee (IOC). But the information is circulating in a very limited “loop” of people, AFP recently learned from a sports source, including the French president, Anne Hidalgo and Tony Estanguet.
“We are going to make billions of people dream”, affirms the triple Olympic canoe champion, an eternal enthusiast who also promises a good television audience.