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Olympic chiefs unfazed, Paris thrives

PARIS (AFP) – The International Olympic Committee said on Thursday it was “reassured” by transport plans for the 2024 Paris Games after the city’s mayor said the system would not be ready in time.

Anne Hidalgo sparked anger from the French ministers of sports and transport as well as political opponents last week after saying that while the Games infrastructure will be ready “there are two things for which we will not be ready”, namely transport and also the problem of homelessness.

With less than a year before the event kicks off, the transport infrastructure in Paris is already under huge pressure, with commuters and tourists alike complaining of poor frequency, overcrowding and uncleanliness.

But Christophe Dubi, the IOC’s Executive Director, told a press conference in Paris where the Olympic body is holding an executive board meeting, that it was normal there was work to do this far out from hosting an Olympics.

“We’ve reviewed transport plans with our experts and all stakeholders,” Dubi said.

“It’s an extremely complex operation and obviously we all agree on that, including in the centre of Paris where you have a lot of different sites with probably a million spectators per day.

“This is a huge opportunity to actually showcase how beautiful your city is, but at the same time, it is a huge challenge when it comes to transportation.”

Olympic Games Executive Director Christophe Dubi (L) answers journalists’ questions during a press conference after an International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board committee meeting in Paris, on November 29, 2023. PHOTO: AFP

Dubi added: “Based on the explanation of all the stakeholders, we are very much reassured.

“We still have seven or eight months before the Games. There’s still quite a bit of work that has to be done and that’s absolutely normal.”

Hidalgo did not hold back in her criticism of the Paris transport system.

“We still have problems in daily transport issues and we are still not reaching the comfort and punctuality needed for Parisians,” the Socialist Mayor of the French capital said.

“There are places where the transport will not be ready and there will not be enough trains.”

Transport Minister Clement Beaune, a close ally of centrist President Emmanuel Macron, accused Hidalgo of not being present at committee meetings aimed at discussing transport infrastructure.

“We will be ready,” added Valerie Pecresse, the head of the Ile-de-France region that includes Paris, thanking transport staff for their efforts.

“It is an immense collective work which should not be tarnished by an absent mayor.”