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In-Seine: Paris games opening will be on river, instead of in a stadium


Paris 2024 organisers are expecting at least 600,000 people to attend the Summer Olympics opening ceremony on the Seine as athletes and delegations will sail along the river in the prelude to the Games.

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The opening ceremony vision was unveiled on Monday as an event organisers hope will be unique in Olympic history and free for hundreds of thousands to watch on the riverside.

Rethinking the ceremony that announces an Olympics to the world by taking it outside the traditional stadium setting was long hinted at by Paris officials.

Details revealed for the July 26, 2024 show help explain a promise to use the City of Light, its culture and people as essential actors in the Olympics.

“It has to be creative, it has to be different, it has to be spectacular and it has to be popular,” Tony Estanguet, the head of the organising committee, told the Associated Press.

For starters, the water-borne opening ceremony will innovate by having the parade of athletes from more than 200 nations begin the evening instead of end it.

Some 160 boats will set off on July 26 from the Pont d’Austerlitz for a six-kilometre journey to the Pont d’Iena beneath the Eiffel Tower in an event Estanguet described as “unique and spectacular”.

Some 80 giant screens will also be installed along the route.

“At this hour, of course, the light is just magic, really beautiful,” Estanguet said in an interview.

The athletes will pass landmarks such as Notre Dame cathedral, the Louvre and d’Orsay museums, and the Grand Palais on a route set to be animated with light shows, music and sports.

“We want them to really enjoy this moment and in a way be the actors of the show,” said Estanguet, a four-time Olympian and three-time gold medallist in canoe slalom.

His understanding of demands made on Olympic athletes has helped shape what he hopes will be a better experience for most of about 10,000 athletes in Paris.

Gone should be the typical opening ceremony experience of standing around outside a stadium, marching into it, then more standing until about midnight. That has put off athletes who start competing the next day.

“It could be hours and hours when you stand,” said Estanguet, suggesting the new option from Paris “will also convince athletes that they can participate without any stress”.

They should be able to board a boat, relax and float downstream to the Trocadero gardens where seats await them in grandstands.

They can choose to return to their Olympic village apartments or stay for the artistic show that has traditionally begun the ceremony.

The project was approved by the IOC last month, with its President Thomas Bach saying all security requirements would be met.

After Monday’s launch, Estanguet said, “We will start to work on the artistic direction”.

with Reuters

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