500 days countdown to the 2024 Paris Games Judo Tournament
French President Emmanuel Macron launched the countdown to the 2024 Paris Olympics, taking stock of preparations for the mammoth event as officials race to get the city’s transport network into shape and stage an opening ceremony unlike any other. In exact 500 days the judo tournament will start.
In 500 days a lot can and will happen. While the World Judo Tour is in full swing, at each event we can take stock of the forces involved. There is of course France, as host country, which can already count on their 14 qualified athletes but whose names are still far from being written in stone.
Macron, who has promised an “unforgettable” curtain-raiser, hosted the Olympics’ organisers and business partners at the Élysée Palace to discuss preparations for the world’s biggest sporting event.
“With 500 days to go, we are within reach of achieving one of the greatest legacies of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris,” the French president wrote, referencing a hugely ambitious 1.4-billion-euro plan to clean up the heavily polluted waterway in time for the Games.
Making the Seine fit for swimming is an old Parisian dream. In 1988, former French president Jacques Chirac, then the city’s mayor, famously promised to make the river swimmable “in three years” – a pledge he never delivered on.
The dream has become a necessity now that Paris has pledged to stage several Olympics events, including the 10 kilometre swimming marathon, in the Seine – as it did back in 1900, when it first hosted the Games.
The prospect of athletes swimming down the world-famous river, alongside Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower, was a major asset for the French capital’s bid to host the “biggest show on earth”.
The city’s famed waterway is the focus of another mammoth challenge for organisers of the 33rd Summer Olympiad, one that is bound to give French officials many a sleepless night over the coming 500 days.
In perhaps the biggest gamble of Paris 2024, organisers plan to take the opening ceremony out of its traditional stadium setting and stage it on water.
Mindful of the tight schedule, Valérie Pécresse, the conservative head of the Paris region, has leveraged the Olympics to secure an additional 200-million-euro budget from the central government, threatening to delay the opening of new transport lines that fall under her remit.
In the best-case scenario, transport will already be well short of what organisers promised when they submitted their final bid seven years ago. A future metro line that promised to link Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport with the Athletes’ Village in “under 30 minutes” will not be ready in time for the Games; nor will the long-delayed CDG Express train linking the airport with the heart of Paris.
In just over a week, the Tbilisi Grand Slam will be an important step on the way and then there will be Türkiye before the World Championships in Doha. The quest will not be complete though, far from it, since many events are on the calendar before the end of Olympic qualifying, just a few weeks before the Games.