Paris 2024 bid leaders today signalled that a referendum among local people was unlikely, as the French capital ended months of deliberation by formally declaring its intention to bid for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
In a conference call immediately after the bid was launched at a crowded midday event attended by a glittering array of French sports stars, Etienne Thobois, chief executive, said: “As of today there is no plan for a referendum at this stage.”
This stance was underlined by Bernard Lapasset, President of World Rugby and bid chairman, who told Le Monde, the highbrow French newspaper: “I don’t think there will be one.”
While both men nonetheless emphasised the importance of active consultations with the local population, their responses immediately differentiated Paris from two of its main rivals in what has the makings of a refreshingly open contest for the next Summer Games but two.
The Boston bid, struggling at the moment, is expected to hold a plebiscite next year if it remains in the field; a referendum on Hamburg’s bid has been set for November 29.
The strategy spares Paris the need to negotiate one potentially delicate hurdle in the obstacle-strewn two-year race for the biggest prize in world sport, while leaving the bid open to possible criticism should public opinion at any point turn against them.
The other runner in what for the moment is a four-horse race is Rome; the Hungarian capital Budapest is expected to append its name to this list before the September 15 deadline, and others could conceivably do likewise.
Paris chose the 121st anniversary of a day charged with Olympic symbolism to launch its fourth bid in recent times to stage what would be its third Summer Games.
June 23 - Olympic Day - is when, in 1894, the first Olympic Congress, assembled at Paris’s Sorbonne University, adopted a resolution to revive the Ancient Games, a desire brought to fruition in Athens two years later.
Augmenting the historical theme, 2024 will also mark the centenary of when the French capital last staged a Summer Olympics.
Nevertheless, Thobois, speaking in more than serviceable English as one-time London 2012 PR supremo Mike Lee directed traffic, emphasised that while France was proud of its Olympic history, “we are looking forward, we are not looking backwards…
“We are into Agenda 2020, not Agenda 1920,” he quipped, in reference to International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach’s recent package of Olympic reforms.
At the launch at the headquarters of the Comité National Olympique et Sportif Français (CNOSF), the French National Olympic Committee, Lapasset told those present that he believed Paris’s goal to host the 2024 Games would “excite, unite and enthuse the people of Paris, our entire nation and lovers of Olympic and Paralympic sport all over the world.
“As we move forward with our bid,” he continued, “it is very pleasing to see today that we already have the full support of the city, regional and National Governments as well as the CNOSF and the French sports movement – it is wonderful to also receive significant public support and real backing from our athletes.”
Anne Hidalgo, the city’s Mayor, who had appeared to take some time before warming to the idea of another bid so soon after the disappointment of the 2012 race when the city lost out to Lee's London, said that by bidding for the 2024 Games, Paris was “looking forward to an exciting and bold future whilst remaining true to its rich sporting and cultural traditions.
“We will be designing an integrated project with all the talents of the city of Paris and its suburbs and with young people playing a key role,” Hidalgo added.
“We aim to highlight the unity and the solidarity of a cosmopolitan city, which I am sure will be one of the key strengths to win.”
Emmanuelle Assmann, President of the French Paralympic Committee (CPSF) said: “Bringing the Olympic and Paralympic Games to Paris would have a huge positive impact on the lives of disabled people in the city.
“The Games would help to increase accessibility towards disabled sport, improve facilities and change the public perception and attitudes towards disability.”
Those attending the launch included Renaud Lavillenie, Olympic gold medallist and pole vault world record holder, Marion Bartoli, the 2013 Wimbledon tennis champion, Teddy Riner, an Olympic gold medallist and seven-time world champion in judo, Marie-José Pérec, triple Olympic gold medallist in athletics and Laure Manaudou, Olympic gold medallist in swimming.
The winner is set to be chosen by IOC members in 2017, at the body’s 130th Session in the Peruvian capital of Lima.
Paris - which is expected to stage a second, more politically-oriented launch on French National Day, July 14 -previously bid without success in 1992, 2008 and 2012.
June 2015: Paris turn to key London 2012 figure to help launch Olympic bid for 2024
May 2015: Poll suggests French still not convinced over Paris 2024 bid
May 2015: Regional backing latest boost for Paris 2024 bid
April 2015: Exclusive: Thobois gets chief executive role in Paris 2024 bid
April 2015: Bach tells Hollande that France has "lot to offer to the Olympic Movement" as praises Paris 2024 bid