January 23, 2022

the Seine will be the scene of the opening ceremony of the Games, in front of 600,000 people

The opening ceremony of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games promises to be spectacular, grandiose, unique. In any case, this is what the images unveiled on Monday, December 13 by the Organizing Committee (OCOG) of Paris 2024 promise. On July 26, 2024, for the first time in Olympic history, an opening ceremony will take place outside a stadium. This is not a surprise: Tony Estanguet, the boss of Paris 2024, had told the World early 2021, revealing that the Seine would be the common thread of the event.

Emmanuel Macron reaffirmed the ambition during the summer, during the Tokyo Olympics. We now know a little more about the details of the ceremony. The Parisian river will therefore be the open-air theater of the spectacle. Over six kilometers, between the Pont d’Austerlitz and the Pont d’Iéna, 160 boats will parade taking on board the 10,500 athletes from the 200 or so delegations participating in the Games, from July 26 to August 11, 2024.

Read also Olympic Games: the new map of Paris 2024 venues unveiled

At least 600,000 spectators will be able to attend this ceremony; the police and regional prefectures, the interministerial delegation to the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Ministry of the Interior, the City of Paris and the Organizing Committee have agreed on the “Feasibility” of the project, explains the latter. “We will continue, in the coming weeks, to work with the public authorities in order to optimize this gauge”, assures the OCOG in a press release.

80 giant screens

In recent months, the logistical and security challenges of an event of such magnitude had given a cold sweat on the side of the Ministry of the Interior and caused some friction between the various stakeholders. About fifty meetings were organized with the public authorities over a year, according to Paris 2024, to validate the concept, called “The Olympic Seine”, and define the sharing of responsibilities.

Artist's impression of the parade on the Seine during the opening ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

On the lower docks of the river, where paying stands will be installed, security will be the responsibility of the OCOG, as inside any Olympic site; on the high quays, free access and therefore free, it will be the responsibility of the public authorities, which could call on the army to provide it. Several filtering points will be established at the entrance to the two perimeters. Their number and location should be determined in 2022.

“We mapped each square meter of the Seine, a document that we gave to the working groups”, argues Thierry Reboul, the executive director of brands, events and ceremonies of Paris 2024, who had already been in the process of installing an athletics track on the Alexandre-III bridge, in June 2017, during the Olympic days, shortly before the obtaining of the Games by Paris.

While some 600,000 places will be available to attend this ceremony – i.e. “Ten times the Stade de France in Olympic configuration”, Mr Reboul likes to stress – how many of them will be chargeable? “There will be more entries than in the Stade de France, and more free places than paying”, eludes Michaël Aloïsio, Tony Estanguet’s chief of staff. Precision is useful when the will of the organizers is to “Democratize the opening ceremony of the Games”.

Artist's impression of the opening ceremony of the 2024 Olympic Games at the Trocadéro, in Paris.

Paris promises that the party will be total for the spectators: 80 giant screens will be placed along the route, entirely with sound, which will allow spectators to follow the passage of the delegations and the artistic demonstrations. Unprecedented, the ceremony will begin with the parade of athletes, who will therefore be able to attend the rest of the show, unlike previous editions. The Olympic flame will be lit after dark at the Trocadéro, in front of the Eiffel Tower, where 120 heads of state and government are expected in the official stands.

High level of ambition

Then place at the artistic show. “We will be faced with a fantastic heritage, enthuses Thierry Reboul, citing among others the Notre-Dame cathedral, the Pont-Neuf, the Louvre and Orsay Museums, the Tuileries garden. No need to reconstruct a setting like in a stadium, we will be able to concentrate on the artistic part. “

The organizers promise a spectacle: on the water, on bridges, in the air, on fixed and mobile supports. Holograms, a floating symphony orchestra, dancers on the rooftops, drones for certain artistic performances … Paris 2024 wants, during the seven hours of the opening ceremony, to sparkle in the eyes of the whole world – a billion viewers are expected .

On the cost, the management of Paris 2024 is less talkative. The ceremony will be financed with funds, 97% private, from the organizers. However, it will require redeploying budgets. The bill for the curtain raising of the Games will be definitively established at the end of 2022, during the multi-year budget review of the OCOG. The amount should be up to the – high – level of ambition but, notes Paris 2024, “Ticket sales will also be more important”.

Artist's impression of the opening ceremony on the Seine of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.

The Paris 2024 teams will now continue to work with the public authorities and the river authorities to specify the security measures and refine the consequences of the event on the city and the ecosystem of the Seine, which will, on July 26, 2024, be fully blocked.

The names of the selected artistic teams should be known in the coming months, as will be revealed, by the end of 2022, the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games (from August 28 to September 8) – also will take place outside the Stade de France – and the two closing ceremonies.

Read also Article reserved for our subscribers Paris 2024 Olympic Games: “We are on schedule”, assures Tony Estanguet