Macron opens athletes' village as 2024 Paris Olympics draw closer

French President and Paris mayor in attendance as village is officially handed over to Games organisers

France's President Emmanuel Macron, surrounded by officials, attends the inauguration ceremony of the Paris 2024 Olympic village in Saint-Denis, north of Paris. AP
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French President Emmanuel Macron helped open the athletes' village for the 2024 Olympics on Thursday, as yet another milestone was reached ahead of the opening of the Paris Games.

Mr Macron appeared alongside Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo at the complex in Saint-Denis, one of the poorer areas of French capital that has been transformed for the sporting event through public investment.

The construction company behind the residential project symbolically handed over a large key to the Paris 2024 president Tony Estanguet as seven years was marked since the city was awarded the Games.

“It's a very big day,” said Mr Macron. “It's a demonstration that France is a nation of builders.

“What has been done on time and within budget as we finalise the reconstruction of Notre Dame is nothing short of remarkable.”

The eco-friendly village led to nearly 2,000 jobs being created, with 1,136 going to local residents.

It cost about €2 billion ($2.2 billion) to build, most of it coming from investment from property developers but also including €646 million ($700 million) from public funds.

In a city repeatedly hit by deadly extremist attacks, security is the biggest challenge for organisers as they ready Paris for the July 26-August 11 Games and August 28-September 8 Paralympics.

“Obviously, it's been an obsession since the beginning”, Mr Macron said. “We have a colossal amount of work being done in advance.”

Speaking to reporters, Mr Macron claimed that he would swim in the River Seine at a later date to show how much progress has been made in cleaning up the tributary.

“I will do it,” Mr Macron said. “But I won't give you the date, or you risk being there.”

Mr Macron is not the first French politician to promise to swim in the Seine.

Ms Hidalgo said she would do so more than three decades after her predecessor Jacques Chirac famously promised to do it “in the presence of witnesses” but never did.

After the Games, the village will be turned into an eco-friendly neighbourhood benefiting 6,000 residents and featuring two schools, a hotel, a public park, shops and offices plus planted areas for pedestrians and non-motorised vehicles.

“Our athletes will be able to experience the Games in the best conditions and you contributed to changing the lives of the people in the area,” Mr Macron said.

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Updated: February 29, 2024, 5:50 PM