The game of musical chairs on the map of Olympic venues had been going on for several months. Relaunched at the end of January by the allegations of departure from the shooting events of La Courneuve (Seine-Saint-Denis), the controversy had caused a stir in March when the French basketball players, in the forefront of which Evan Fournier, were indignant at having to play in Hall 6 of the Paris Exhibition Centre.
The organizers of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games (Cojop) as well as the president of the Seine-Saint-Denis departmental council, Stéphane Troussel, put an end, on Tuesday June 21, to five months of rumors and speculation. The boss of 93, determined to preserve the number of Olympic events on his territory – “a red line” – confirmed that the preliminary boxing tournament would digitally replace the shooting, in a hall of the Villepinte exhibition center, according to the most serious hypothesis.
“Seine-Saint-Denis will remain at the heart of the Games”, welcomes Stéphane Troussel, for whom the decision “fits perfectly into the DNA of Seine-Saint-Denis, given the attractiveness that boxing represents for a young audience.
The Séquano-Dyonisien president is not sulking his pleasure, his department will, in addition to boxing, host additional events: modern pentathlon fencing and seated volleyball (Paralympic Games), on sites that have yet to be defined, as well than the para-cycling event in Clichy-sous-Bois.
The semi-finals and finals of the boxing tournament are maintained at Roland-Garros, on the Philippe-Chatrier court and no longer on the Suzanne-Lenglen whose cover – the construction site is in progress – does not allow to organize the pugilistic tournament under the required light and temperature conditions.
Five months of crisis
This revision of the map of Olympic sites in Seine-Saint-Denis puts an end to several months of disagreements and crisis meetings between the teams of Stéphane Troussel and those of Paris 2024. In recent weeks, the two “partners” had, under at the instigation of the interministerial delegate for the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Dijop), Michel Cadot, intensified their exchanges to “come out on top” and find an alternative to the start of the Seine-Saint-Denis shot.
The land of Les Essences, located in the Georges-Valbonà park in La Courneuve, did not offer the necessary guarantees, particularly in terms of facilities to Olympic standards and required additional investment. After having considered “annexing” the neighboring bowling alley, the two parties to the Olympic Games therefore finally decided, in the face of the budgetary and calendar risks posed by possible administrative appeals, to move the shooting events.
Probably direction Indre, where the French Olympic champion Jean Quicampoix should defend his title at the national center of sports shooting of Chateauroux, more than 270 km from Paris. A base “not yet recorded but priority”, according to the Cojop, which also has the merit of being defended by the International Shooting Federation.
“No red alert”
The land of Les Essences, whose depollution continues – a 12 million euro project financed by Solidéo, the company delivering the Olympic works – and where the post-Games renaturation project is maintained, will serve as a starting point for the paramarathon and to that of the cycling event open to all. A live site, on the model of the one planned for the Trocadéro, in Paris, will also be installed in the Georges-Valbon park (Courneuve park) and should make it possible to be “a meeting place for the whole Seine- Saint-Denis” during the Games, according to Stéphane Troussel.
Asked about the cost of this new concept review, two years after the previous one imposed by Covid-19, Paris 2024 ensures that the partial move of boxing is only “a transfer of costs for the development of a temporary site [Roland-Garros] to another [Villepinte]”; however, the discipline is now scheduled on two sites and no longer just one. As for shooting, it still remains, if the national center of Chateauroux is selected, “to specify in the coming days with local elected officials and the federation the conditions for hosting the events”.
If the map of sites is now known for Seine-Saint-Denis, the exchange envisaged between basketball and handball – the preliminary basketball tournament would replace, at the Pierre-Mauroy stadium in Lille, that of handball which would take place at the Parc exhibitions in Paris – has not yet been formalized. Meetings between the International Basketball Federation – which would prefer the Arena (under construction) at Porte de la Chapelle, in Paris, or that of Bercy –, the Cojop and the International Olympic Committee – on the same line as Paris 2024 – must still take place in the next few days. Ultimately, “it is the IOC who arbitrates”, recalls the Cojop.
Not sure in any case that the exchange will be recorded by July 12, the date of the next Paris 2024 board of directors, during which the concept review must be validated. Only two years from the Paris Games, Dijop nevertheless wants to be reassuring: “There is no red alert (…) We are still on a schedule that allows us to change sites while limiting the risks. »