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France rolled out the red carpet for the Olympic flag on Monday, with the host of the upcoming 2024 Summer Olympics promising to make the sporting spectacle open to the masses after a pandemic-stricken Tokyo Games that took place behind closed doors.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo waved the flag handed to her in Tokyo during the handover ceremony as she exited the plane bringing home some of the country’s last athletes.
The 2024 games would be “something very positive for our country. They are coming at a good time, ”Hidalgo told reporters.
Paris said she learned many lessons from the Tokyo experience.
Delayed for a year and shattered by strict COVID-19 countermeasures as contagious variants returned to the world, the 2020 Games failed to achieve the triumph and financial windfall that Japan wanted.
During the handover ceremony on Sunday, Paris sought to change its tone. Several thousands sports fans gathered in a fan zone in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, screaming and cheering as some Tokyo medalists bounced on stage to thunderous rock music.
“We want to find ways to open the games to the public,” said Paris Games director Tony Estanguet.
“Our goal is to take sport out of traditional spaces and place competition at the heart of the city’s most famous monuments,” added Estanguet, three-time Olympic canoe champion.
Bringing the games closer to the people will pose security problems in a country that has suffered waves of attacks from Islamist militants and jihadist-inspired attackers in recent years. More than 250 people have been killed.
A nod to the break with an old format made for television, the organizers of the Paris 2024 Games have been working for a year to bring out the opening ceremony of the Olympic stadium in the heart of Paris.
For the first time, amateur runners will participate in the marathon, road bike enthusiasts will ride the course shortly after the Olympians and sailing enthusiasts may be able to compete in real time with their sporting heroes.
“We need to balance the tradition of the Olympics with creativity and innovation,” Estanguet said.
No one knows if the world will have conquered the pandemic in three years. Estanguet told Reuters in February that Paris 2024 was working on its own contingency plans.
Already, not everything has passed through Paris. The city’s attempt to hoist a giant flag on the Eiffel Tower and set a first world record for the 2024 Games was thwarted by the wind on Sunday.