The Olympic Legacy on the Front Page

The Olympic legacy is the result of a vision that encompasses all the tangible and intangible long-term benefits initiated or accelerated by the hosting of the Olympic Games / sports events for people, cities or territories and the Olympic Movement.” Thus defined by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the legacy left by the holding of the Games structures the reflections of the organisers who are trying to seize this unparalleled opportunity to develop various themes. Paris 2024 is no exception to the rule, while the committee wishes to make this event the first step in a new societal model that is safer, more responsible, more supportive and more inclusive.

By Alexis Papin

Tokyo, two years on

Held in the particular context of the global pandemic, the Tokyo Games were not without an effect on the Japanese capital. According to the IOC, this event made it possible to accelerate the level of physical activity practised by the residents of Tokyo, nearly 66% of whom carried out weekly sports activities in 2022 compared with 54% in 2012. Urban sports have experienced a great boom with the introduction of skateboarding, freestyle BMX or even 3×3 basketball. The site of the skateboard competitions hosted the first parkour world championships as well as the Urban Sport Festival Tokyo 2022.1 And this legacy has not been limited to the capital alone, allowing the country to organise major international competitions. The sports centres of Utsunomiya hosted the first leg of the FIBA 3×3 World Tour and the city of Morioka hosted the Climbing World Cup in 2022. Games and infrastructure have stimulated cultural life to a greater extent. The Sea Forest Waterway which reopened in April 2022 now serves as a venue for music festivals. The athletes’ village should be accessible to the public in 2024. Under renovation, this district is to become the first space entirely powered by hydrogen as part of the ZeroEmission Tokyo plan. In terms of security, if the last Games in Japan saw a systemic concentration on the management of health risk, the legacy now reaches much wider horizons, based on the lessons learned on certain major failings. With a largely restricted spectator gauge, cyber attacks have been a main bias for criminals around the world. After identifying nearly 450 million malicious acts, the Japanese government has taken the necessary step of reassessing its systems. Adopted at the end of 2022, the National Security Strategy integrates an active cyber defence reorganised around the National Centre for Incident Preparedness and Cybersecurity Strategy (NISC). This structure now manages public policies and commands the cyber units of the Japanese Army and police. The Ministry of Defence also plans not only to recruit 4,000 additional people in this field but also to train 16,000 members of the armed forces over the next five years.2 If this is a form of legacy that had not been planned beforehand, it underlines the strength of such an event to bring failures out into the open, a reminder of the magnitude of the challenge for Paris 2024.

The security system at the heart of the Olympic legacy

The estimates of the Court of Auditors concerning the personnel necessary to ensure the security missions (22 to 33,000 private security agents at the competition sites, 35,000 agents from the internal security forces and 10,000 military personnel) and the necessity to accelerate the dynamics, have led to an intensification of training actions and numerous job creations which should remain, for some, in the days after the Games. The professionalisation of private security will undoubtedly be a favourable legacy for the structuring of an entire sector, which is part of the « Do better with the Games » plan of the French government. And Claude Revel, President of the Economic Interest Group France Sport, added “Hosting a sporting event of this magnitude remains a coveted topic within international competition. Therefore, this must allow us to position ourselves in a certain number of export markets. In West Africa with Senegal which will host the Youth Olympic Games in Dakar in 2026, in emerging countries in sports events such as India and, in priority, the next Games of Milan Cortina 2026, Los Angeles 2028 and Brisbane 2032”.3

The stimulation of a « security continuum » recommended by the national coordinator for the security of the OPG will make it possible to develop the capacity to make the forces act together and decompartmentalise the internal security architecture. In terms of equipment, the internal security forces will benefit from an acceleration in the acquisition of innovative technological means allowing an expected modernisation; a component carried out in cooperation with the security industry for experimental phases. In addition to the algorithmic video protection embedded on video devices and on aircraft which did not reach a consensus during the parliamentary debates, the needs in terms of CBRN equipment, anti-ram devices, medical equipment or computer equipment, will make it possible to pass a new milestone.

On the armed forces side, the government’s ambition is to implement the « Aux sports jeunes citoyens » (“To sport, young citizens!”) project. Objective: to develop the link between the army and youth through the development of outreach activities on memory sport, for example, through the realisation of field actions promoted through the dissemination of a toolbox with action kits for flagship actions: memorial orienteering, memory escape game, exhibition, testimonies of athletes, remembrance rally, etc. Another desire is to implement the interministerial protocol relating to the support of French high-level sport in order to promote the recruitment of athletes under the status of high-level athletes within the Ministry of the Armed Forces and the Ministry of the Interior.

French territories towards new horizons

Registered at the National Assembly on July 5, 2023, the information report on the impact of the OPG 2024 on the local economic and associative fabric reports a first positive assessment of the dynamism infused by the organisation of the event. Several notable projects: the Porte de la Chapelle Arena in Paris, the media village in the municipalities of Courneuve, Bourget and Dugny which will offer 340 housing units at the end of the Games, the athletes’ village in the municipalities of Saint-Denis, Saint-Ouen and Ile-Saint-Denis which will be transformed into nearly 2,800 housing units and 100,000 m2 of offices and services, as well as the Olympic aquatic centre in Saint-Denis which, eventually, will welcome the general public and also national and international competitions. “Today we need to take a new approach to heritage. The latter cannot be built only for the needs of a competition, it must first be built for the needs of a territory” explained Tony Estanguet, the President of the Organising Committee of the 2024 Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games.4 If nearly 70% of the structures built within the dynamics of the Games are concentrated in Seine-Saint-Denis, all the other territories involved will be the object of particular attention, mainly around the dozen competition sites, but also around the nearly 200 places of celebration which will be spread throughout France. Once again this year, in order to encourage the commitment of all the actors on the occasion of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the “Land of Games 2024” Trophies will reward 24 communities for their actions carried out around sport, health, education, inclusion and sustainable development. At the heart of the strategy “Impact and Legacy”, some territories are already benefiting from the first positive effects. These are 6 cities, Bourges, Châtellerault, Limoges, Plaine Commune, Saint-Dizier and Saint-Omer, which are currently renovating their centres to accommodate infrastructures encouraging the practice of physical activity for all. More than for infrastructure alone, the legacy must set the tone for a major turning point towards more responsible and inclusive horizons in all fields in accordance with the course to be taken: the UN’s 2030 Agenda. Among the major advances in gender diversity, the legislative work on parity in sports federations carried out in 2022 and the increase of 7 points in four years in the sports practices of women in France are among the first successes. From an environmental point of view, the restoration and reuse of buildings will be in the spotlight in order to finally turn our backs on the construction of “white elephants”, which has marked the organisation of various Games. It is also in terms of quantifying the impact that Paris 2024 sets the tone. The objective is clear: not to exceed 1.5 million tons of CO2 emissions, which is twice as many as previously, based on sustainable catering, reduced athlete transport thanks to a compact model and the use of renewable energies. The quantification of the impact guides the entire approach of the Games. ‘Our latest figures for July 2023 show nearly 1,000 projects supported by the Impact 2024 programme, which have already benefited 3 million people of all ages and from all social backgrounds. Moreover, the 180,000 jobs linked to the organisation of the event already allow people who were initially far from employment to turn to the future,” explains Tania Braga, Director of Impact at the International Olympic Committee.

An international legacy

With all the ambitions carried by the organisers of the parisian edition, the next Games will undoubtedly serve to define new standards for the holding of international events. The upcoming OPG 2024 also serves to spread the commitment across borders. Since 2020, the International Olympic Committee and Paris 2024 have been allies as part of the “Sport for Development Coalition”, in order to make the event a vector of international development. On this occasion, the organisation, in conjunction with the French Development Agency, supports numerous projects in terms of health, educational success, youth civic engagement or equality. Two sessions have been open every year since 2021, thus making it possible to support 45 projects in 19 African countries for a total amount of 1.4 million euros.5 The various actions carried out include the promotion of sports practices on the continent, with surfing in Senegal, BMX in Cameroon or circus arts in Zambia.

With this progressive expansion of the field of action surrounding the organisation of Games, the 2024 edition is already setting the tone for what the future Olympic legacies should be. “Regarding the 2024 edition, our main satisfaction today is that the legacy is already clearly visible,” concludes Tania Braga. “The idea is now to perpetuate as far as possible the ambitions carried by Paris 2024, we are now no longer waiting for but supporting results.”