This is Mike Rowbottom’s second column on the complexities of the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Paris 2024 – shining a light on the darkest places
This week in London Etienne Thobois, chief executive of the Paris 2024 Games, has been talking all things Olympic – and Paralympic – for the benefit of gathered British scribes.
Not unnaturally, Monsieur Thobois was keen to spread good news about the coming sportfest in the French capital.
Diplomatically and doubtless genuinely, he doffed his cap to the “inspiring” London 2012 Olympics and spoke of his hopes that Paris would deliver “a spectacular Games.”
Gender-parity – tick. Ticket sales – tick. Medallists catwalk at the Eiffel Tower fan zone – tick.
But the question was asked, as it must be. Inevitably.
Since the terrorist attack at the 1972 Munich Olympics, organisers of the Games have had to accommodate ever more costly and elaborate safety measures.
For the Paris 2024 organisers, in this necessary arena, the memories are still painfully fresh of the disaster that oh-so-nearly happened at the 2022 UEFA Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid at the Stade de France – in the Saint-Denis area of the city that will form the centrepiece of this year’s Games.
There was huge and justified criticism of the tactics and attitude of the French police, with supporters, in the main part patient and orderly Liverpool supporters, being crowded into chaotic and potentially fatal situations, with many being gratuitously tear-gassed.
It was, verily, a debacle.
The need for something very different to take place during the Paris 2024 Games is something of which organisers have been painfully aware ever since.
“Everything went wrong that night,” Thobois said.
“It was a wake-up call and we’ve all learnt from that. The security set-up in Paris will be unprecedented.
“There is not one building that hasn’t been scrutinised. We’re making sure what happened that night will never happen again.”
Those charged with the task of trying to ensure that each quadrennial international gathering proceeds in safety are in an unenviable position.
If anybody needed reminding that the worst-case scenario is always the one to have in mind in such circumstances, the pipe bombing at the Atlanta Games of 1996 – which resulted in the death of two individuals and left 111 injured – refocused the collective gaze.
After that device had exploded in the Centennial Olympic Park in the early hours of July…