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Paris Olympic athletes' village key issue in fight with LA

Paris Olympic athletes' village key issue in fight with LA
Officially, Los Angeles and Paris are the only two bidders left for the 2024 Games that will be awarded in September at a meeting of Olympic leaders in Lima, Peru. (AP Photo/File)
Published: 7:30 PM, May 16, 2017
Updated: 7:30 PM, May 16, 2017

PARIS – Paris leaders of their latest Olympic bid insisted on Monday that their planned 1.7 billion euro (S$2.62 billion) athletes' village had guaranteed funding only for the 2024 Games and not 2028.

The International Olympic Council (IOC) is assessing the possibility of giving Paris and Los Angeles the next two Olympics in September, and the athletes' village has become a hot topic because Paris officials say their site will not be available after 2024.

“We are committed with the public authorities on this project for 2024, after that it's not guaranteed,” said bid leader Tony Estanguet on Monday (May 15).

Michael Aloisio, the deputy general director of the Paris bid, said before it would be difficult for Paris to freeze the project for four extra years “because there's a need for the people around this area for housing.”

“All these projects have now been launched, and so they will take place before 2024, and so we can't just freeze them and kind of sideline them for four years.”

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo stressed that the village in the Seine-Saint-Denis will help develop an area where unemployment remains high. A total of 3,000 new homes should be built in the district after the Olympics.

Bid officials showed IOC inspectors the planned village site in the Pleyel area, a 50-hectare site next to the river Seine. They said 84 percent of the athletes would be able to reach their competition venues in less than 25 minutes, and the Olympic stadium and aquatics center were within two kilometers of the proposed village.

In addition, the bid committee said new public transport infrastructure will make the village more accessible, with the creation of a new train station, and a road interchange that should make it accessible from the centre of Paris in about 20 minutes by car.

The inspectors were impressed by the village plans.

“This site is extremely well located and (close) to all competition venues,” said Patrick Baumann, the head of the IOC evaluation commission. “We received all the necessary information to understand how the site will be developed. We also spoke with the architect, who told us how the future housing project will be done.”

The other main construction requirements include an aquatics center close to the Stade de France, and the media centre.

Because existing infrastructure was at the heart of the project, Paris leaders promise to limit spending, with an infrastructure budget of 3 billion euros and operational costs of 3.2 billion euros. They estimate 70 percent of the village costs will come from private funds.

“We have received all the guarantees we needed,” said Baumann.

On the second day of their visit, the IOC inspectors divided in three groups and toured the proposed venues, including the Eiffel Tower, Roland Garros, the National Velodrome, and the Stade de France.

Many Parisian landmarks including the Grand Palais and Champ de Mars will be used if Paris wins. The road cycling races would finish at the Arc de Triomphe, equestrian next to the Versailles Castle, and beach volleyball at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

Asked to compare the Paris planned venues with those of Los Angeles, Baumann dodged the question.

“The venues have a different history, but they are equally mind-blowing,” he said.

Evaluation commission members will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday for breakfast at the Elysee Palace before final discussions with Paris bid leaders.

Paris and Los Angeles will have another opportunity to present their bids to IOC members in Lausanne in July after they receive the evaluation commission report. The host city election will take place on Sep 13 in Lima, Peru. AP