French watchdogs sound the alarm on Paris Olympics spending

Barely six months after Paris was picked to host the 2024 Olympics and more than six years before those Games are scheduled to open, French budgetary watchdogs are warning of cost overruns.

French watchdogs sound the alarm on Paris Olympics spending
Photo: AFP
To prevent what one French economist, Wladimir Andreff, called “the curse of the victorious bid” French authorities are already scrutinising plans to ensure that Paris holds as closely as possible to its 6.8 billion euro ($7.9 billion) budget and, in particular, does not exceed the 1.5 billion euros the government has promised to contribute.
The Olympic price tag has long had a habit of growing. A study of host cities by the Said Business School at the University of Oxford said the Games have “the highest average cost overrun of any type of mega-project.”
On Wednesday, Parisian media published details of an “alert to ministers” dated February 12 which AFP has also read. It is not reassuring.
The provisional report prepared by the French inspectors general of finance (IGF), sport (IGJS) and environment (Cgedd) talks of “real risks of non-completion in time of some facilities of significant additional costs”.
It warns that “tough choices” are necessary which could call into question agreements with some of the communities due to host facilities.
Sports Minister Laura Flessel responded by stressing that the report did not say “'You will exceed the budget' but 'this is what you have to do to meet the budget'”.
The provisional report raised questions about the planned Olympic village by the Seine north of Paris, which is intended to accomodate 10,000 competitors and then become 3,000 housing units.
The inspectors pointed out that the site has also been earmarked as a workshop for construction of a metro extension, contains archaeological remains, a school and a residence for migrant workers.
They predicted delays if the plan was not altered.
The inspectors also called the planned volleyball and badminton courts “abnormally expensive” saying they foresaw an overspend of 50m euros on an already high price tag of 172m euros.
They were also unhappy about the plans for a swimming pool next to the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, predicting a “very significant jump” from a proposed budget of 130m euros to 250m.
They queried the “architectural choices” being made and foresaw an operating deficit after the games when the pool is intended to switch to public use in an area where one in two children reach secondary school unable to swim.
The report also queried the necessity of a village to accommodate visiting journalists.
The findings drew an indignant response from Stephane Troussel, the president of the regional council of Seine Saint-Denis which will host most of the Olympic sites.
“We are not in the Republic of the Inspectors of Finance, we can't change the winning plan,” he told AFP.


French government: All athletes must be vaccinated to compete in France

All athletes and sports professionals who wish to compete in France will have to be vaccinated against Covid-19, government sources told AFP on Monday.

Unvaccinated tennis star Novak Djokovic
Unvaccinated tennis star Novak Djokovic. Photo: Oscar del Polzo/AFP

The French parliament has just given the go-ahead for the health pass to be converted into a vaccine pass, which means that anyone wishing to enter leisure and cultural venues – including sports grounds and stadiums – will have to be vaccinated.

This goes for the crowd, but also professional sports players and staff. The government has indicated that exemptions will not be made athletes who are based outside France.

The ministry said a new vaccine pass, “applies to everyone, to volunteers and to elite sportspeople, including those coming from abroad, until further notice.”

READ ALSO What changes when France’s health pass becomes a vaccine pass

Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu said last week that certain events like the French Open could have a special exemption, when asked whether Novak Djokovic could play in the tournament, but this appears now to not be the case.

Questions had been asked about whether the unvaccinated Djokivic – recently deported from Australia – would be able to play in the French Open in May, but the ruling would affect all visiting sports professionals, including rugby teams from England, Ireland and Italy who are due to play in France during the Six Nations tournament in February and March.

Until now a health pass has been sufficient to enter sports grounds, which means unvaccinated players and fans were able to use a negative Covid test.

However once the vaccine pass enters into effect – scheduled to be later this week – only proof of vaccination will be affected.

French domestic sports teams were given the choice of either making sure that all their players and staff were fully vaccinated or playing behind closed doors.