Paris Olympics 50 days out: Issues to ponder ahead of the Games

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Paris Olympics 50 days out: Issues to ponder ahead of the Games

With the Paris 2024 Olympic Games now 50 days from beginning, Sky Sports News’ Geraint Hughes discusses five issues to ponder…

Opening Ceremony doubts

As it stands the Opening Ceremony of Paris 2024 on Friday July 26 will take place on the River Seine, but a number of concerns remain around the security of both athletes and spectators, with organisers admitting to Sky Sports News in March they had a ‘plan A, B, C, D & so on’ when it came to what the Opening Ceremony would look like.

It has been scaled back already, originally 700,000 people were going to be able to witness all the athletes move along on barges and boats down a 6km stretch of the Seine, where they will alight at the Eiffel Tower and move up to the Trocadero.

Plans are for the opening ceremony to Paris 2024 to take place along the River Seine, but there have already been changes

Plans are for the opening ceremony to Paris 2024 to take place along the River Seine, but there have already been changes

While the hope is that the athletes will still parade down that 6km course, the number of people able to see it has been drastically cut to approximately 300,000, with all spectators now ticketed, some free, some paid for.

That means the organisers, and perhaps more pertinently the police and security forces, know exactly who will be in attendance.

While several plans are in play for the Opening Ceremony along the River Seine, there is a fallback. It’s one organisers don’t want, but the traditional curtain raiser for an Olympics could be moved to a traditional stadium venue, most likely the Stade de France.

Safety threat levels

This has been high, remains at the highest alert level possible and will do so throughout the Games. The Paris 2024 Olympics will be the largest global sporting event on the planet this year, and as such in the uncertain times we live in, becomes a target for either individuals or groups who know a huge focus of the world’s attention will be on Paris during July and August.

The Olympic Games has been targeted before. At the 1972 Munich Games, a terrorist group called Black September took a number of Israeli athletes and coaches hostage. It tragically ended with the killing of 11 Israelis and a west German police officer.

Sky Sports News reporter Geraint Hughes travelled to Paris for the unveiling of safety plans by the French Government and Olympic organisation

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Sky Sports News reporter Geraint Hughes travelled to Paris for the unveiling of safety plans by the French Government and Olympic organisation

Sky Sports News reporter Geraint Hughes travelled to Paris for the unveiling of safety plans by the French Government and Olympic organisation

At the 1996 Atlanta Games in the USA, a bomb exploded at Centennial Park killing one and injuring 11. It was deemed a ‘domestic terrorist pipe’ bombing. A security guard named Richard Jewell prevented many more casualties after he discovered the bomb and began clearing spectators out of the park.

Last month, French security services arrested a teenager in Saint-Etienne suspected of plotting an attack on a football game being played during the Olympic tournament in the city, with the French authorities believing he intended to attack spectators and security forces.

The absence of Mbappe

Paris 2024 had hoped Kylian Mbappe would be one of the faces of the Games. A French sports star competing at a home Games in their home city. Not to be.

Organisers were always well aware that Mbappe would not be available for French Olympic men’s football coach Thierry Henry to select for the squad, even though he was eligible and had expressed on more than one occasion a desire to represent France this summer at both the Euros and Olympics.

Kylian Mbappe will not play football for France at the 2024 Paris Olympics, focussing instead on Euro 2024 in Germany

Kylian Mbappe will not play football for France at the 2024 Paris Olympics, focussing instead on Euro 2024 in Germany

Mbappe was eligible as even though the men’s Olympic football tournament is an under-23s competition, three over-age players are allowed in the squad. Henry, Paris organisers and probably most French people wanted Mbappe to play.

While still a PSG player this season, Mbappe remained coy about his participation, while Paris 2024 told Sky Sports they were “hopeful” Mbappe could take part, but the saga that was his departure from PSG and now signing for Real Madrid has ruled out his appearance at the Olympics especially given his expected workload for the French team at Euro 2024.

Don’t be surprised though if Mbappe pops up at events around Paris 2024, organisers need and know the value of a French sporting hero and a global sporting figure.

Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutrals

Russia have been banned by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from competing as a nation at Paris 2024. Their invasion of Ukraine, along with support from Belarus, has meant those two counties are pariahs as far as the majority viewpoint of the IOC and National Olympic Committee’s goes.

What does that actually mean though for Paris 2024? No Russian or Belarus athlete can compete at Paris wearing their national attire, logo or flag. No flag can be flown, no national anthem sung. Neither Russia nor Belarus can effectively be acknowledged… but to the annoyance of several nations and athletes, Russians and Belarusians can compete in Paris as neutrals.

No Russian or Belarusian athlete can compete at Paris 2024, but some athletes will compete as neutrals

No Russian or Belarusian athlete can compete at Paris 2024, but some athletes will compete as neutrals

What that means is that athletes who hold a Russian or Belarusian passport, who have no connection to the military in their respective country, have not expressed any support for the war in Ukraine, and are effectively separated from the conflict, can compete as neutrals.

Selection for Paris comes down to each individual sporting federation, not the Russian or Belarus Olympic Committee. Practically, this means very few Russian or Belarusian athletes will compete at Paris. If no constraints were on either side, it’s been estimated that a combined number of somewhere between 400-550 athletes from those countries may have made it.

Now the IOC has issued the term ‘Individual Neutral Athlete ‘ (AIN) – it’s expected somewhere between 50 and 60 athletes from Russia and Belarus will come under a specially designed flag with their own anthem. They are not allowed to use the flags of Russia, Belarus or the Olympic flag. The delegation is also banned from attending the Opening and Closing Ceremony, nor be listed on the Medal Table.

Team GB strength 50 days out

A medal range or expectation will be set by UK Sport closer to the Games, but Team GB privately expect to perform well at Paris 2024. Three years ago at the delayed Tokyo Olympics, Team GB finished fourth in the Medal Table, winning a total of 64 (22 Gold, 20 Silver, 22 Bronze).

A supercomputer is predicting success for Team GB at this summer's Olympic Games in Paris - but can they deliver?

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A supercomputer is predicting success for Team GB at this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris – but can they deliver?

A supercomputer is predicting success for Team GB at this summer’s Olympic Games in Paris – but can they deliver?

Internationally across the various Olympic sports, Great Britain and Northern Ireland athletes who come together to form Team GB for the Olympic Games, have performed well during this shortened three-year Olympic cycle.

Team GB’s strength is often their ability to compete for medals across a large number of Olympic sports – they don’t focus just on a few core sports. Traditionally though Team GB are strong in athletics, cycling, sailing, rowing and swimming, they medal across the spectrum of sports from equestrian to taekwondo, boxing to skateboarding!

Keely Hodgkinson says she wants to turn her silver medal from Tokyo into gold in Paris and will be ‘fearless’ in her approach as she looks to make it happen

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Keely Hodgkinson says she wants to turn her silver medal from Tokyo into gold in Paris and will be ‘fearless’ in her approach as she looks to make it happen

Keely Hodgkinson says she wants to turn her silver medal from Tokyo into gold in Paris and will be ‘fearless’ in her approach as she looks to make it happen

Skateboarder Sky Brown shared how it feels to be Britain's first world champion and her aspirations for the Paris Olympics

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Skateboarder Sky Brown shared how it feels to be Britain’s first world champion and her aspirations for the Paris Olympics

Skateboarder Sky Brown shared how it feels to be Britain’s first world champion and her aspirations for the Paris Olympics

British artistic swimmers Izzy Thorpe and Kate Shortman say they are grinding and pushing through with their preparation in a bid to win Olympic gold this summer in Paris

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British artistic swimmers Izzy Thorpe and Kate Shortman say they are grinding and pushing through with their preparation in a bid to win Olympic gold this summer in Paris

British artistic swimmers Izzy Thorpe and Kate Shortman say they are grinding and pushing through with their preparation in a bid to win Olympic gold this summer in Paris

A supercomputer that has predicted a ‘virtual medal table’ earlier this year estimated that Team GB will surpass their Tokyo haul and win 65 medals. That prediction would see Team GB finish third in the Medal Table behind the USA and China, and beat hosts France who are predicted to come fifth behind Japan.

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