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“The 2024 Olympics will not be a popular celebration without the local population”

The tourist Echo: The Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be held, in part, in Seine-Saint-Denis. Is it a major event for your territory?

Olivier Meier: The Olympic Games (OG) are, in themselves, the biggest sporting and media event in the world. Inevitably, welcoming them to Seine-Saint-Denis is very important in terms of visitors and media exposure. And it is an event that is intended to be a great popular and mobilizing celebration. There is therefore a major event aspect for our department. But there is also another element that is notable. The Paris candidacy was built around values ​​that promise a return to a form of sobriety, sustainability of infrastructures, with the objective of enhancing the aquatic heritage of the Ile-de-France region. It is therefore the promise of a legacy, and it is an important condition for those who host the Olympics.

“These Games are an opportunity to show that Paris and its metropolis are young, lively, united, with spaces of conviviality and inventiveness. »

Do the Olympics also represent an opportunity, in terms of tourism, for Seine-Saint-Denis?

Olivier Meier: This is a crucial subject for us, as for the tourist attractiveness of Paris. These games are an opportunity to shine the spotlight on something other than eternal Paris, the one the whole world knows. This is an opportunity to show that Paris and its metropolis are young, lively, united, with spaces of conviviality and inventiveness. This is an opportunity to show that Paris can be a destination for slow tourism, with tourism at human height, far from places of concentration. It is necessary to convince the organizers, the institutions, the international media and the sports delegations to look towards this other Paris, more modern, more current. These are very good practical works, with a view to applying the Greater Paris tourist plan. Because the world exposure that Seine-Saint-Denis and Paris will have during this event will not be known for at least a century. We can’t miss each other.

Do you feel popular enthusiasm for this event?

Olivier Meier: For the moment, we have rather a few concerns. At the moment, Seine-Saint-Denis is seeing the concrete effects of this candidacy, with the multiplication of construction sites, coupled, in addition, with those of the Grand Paris Express. Some of our territories are completely blocked. But if, in two years, the party is beautiful and it keeps its promises, that’s not a problem, on the contrary: the games will have enabled the acceleration of many structuring projects for the department. But we were a little put off by various announcements from the organizers. Many major events, such as the opening ceremony or the swimming events, will ultimately not be held in the 93. Even the urban disciplines such as BMX, 3-on-3 basketball or breakdance, which would fit in very well in the sporting culture of the department, are held in Paris. So we continue to believe that the Olympics can be a great popular and mobilizing celebration, but we challenge the organizers on the fact that they must ensure that the local population takes over the event.

What do you think would be the levers to activate?

Olivier Meier: We must not bury certain projects, put to sleep by the pandemic. For example, the Paris 2024 Cultural Olympiad is a way to awaken this popular fervor. It was supposed to start as soon as the Tokyo Olympics ended, but the pandemic ruined the party. Now the project seems to be at a standstill. In Seine-Saint-Denis, cultural actors are essential elements for territorial cohesion and for the dissemination of artistic and cultural practices. All these actors are ready and have lots of ideas for this Cultural Olympiad, on which they were really betting. But they are not solicited, do not know if they will be, if they will have the means, what their concrete objectives will be… There is therefore a real potential for popular fervor, but it is not acquired naturally.

“We have chosen to put the future legacy of these Olympic Games into tourism. »

Does Seine-Saint-Denis Tourisme have means of action?

Olivier Meier: Beyond the natural accompaniment that we bring to all the structures that bring culture to life in the department, we have chosen to put the future heritage of these Olympic Games into tourism. This summer, we will organize site visits, urban walks or cruises, all dedicated to the developments that are in the process of being built. By going to visit these future infrastructures, we will survey a territory, decipher it, and understand what these Olympic sites under construction will bring. For the moment, the inhabitants see above all the daily nuisances brought by these major construction sites. We must also show them that this event will have a positive impact on the environment and the quality of their lives. It is an important factor to build popular enthusiasm.

What will remain of the Olympics once the competitions are over?

Olivier Meier: The project provides for the conversion of numerous infrastructures. The athletes’ village, for example, will be installed in three municipalities (Saint-Denis, Saint-Ouen-Sur-Seine and Île-Saint-Denis, editor’s note). It will be delivered in two phases: it will first welcome athletes from all over the world before being transformed, later, into an eco-district (with 2,500 housing units, a student residence, a hotel, shops, offices… Editor’s note ). It is a future living space that will be splendid, with a small nautical base on a stretch of the Seine, and a space dedicated to urban cultures. For this part of the department which suffers from a real deficit in sports and cultural facilities, these infrastructures will be a reality at the end of the Olympic Games. On the aquatic aspect, for example, Seine-Saint-Denis is one of the least well-endowed French departments in France, with concrete repercussions on the population. After the games, many swimming pools will come out of the ground, thus contributing to the reduction of inequalities between this territory and others.

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