Saturday 20 January 2018

'Olympics will not get rid of our problems': Paris residents

This computer-generated image provided by Paris 2024 shows the beach volleyball venue in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
This computer-generated image provided by Paris 2024 shows the beach volleyball venue in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Ingrid Melander in Paris

As French officials popped Champagne corks to celebrate securing the 2024 Olympics, in Saint-Denis, the underprivileged district just north of Paris where much of the Games will be hosted, not everyone was preparing to party.

After three failed bids and the withdrawal of its chief rival Los Angeles, Paris was chosen to host the summer Games seven years from now, with the announcement made in Lima, Peru, last night.

"All of France is behind #Paris2024, to welcome the world!" Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, one of the leaders of France's bid, said on Twitter.

But a dozen kilometres north of her town hall, in Saint-Denis, some are not so sure.

Despite promises of jobs and better public transport for the small city that will host the opening and closing ceremonies, the athletes' village and many sporting events, there is scepticism about any potential windfall.

"It might be a good thing for those with enough money to buy tickets, and for bar owners nearby, but that's it," said Lucette Menage (46), a local home carer.

"The Olympics won't solve our problems, they won't put an end to all the poverty in the banlieues," she said, referring to Paris' poor outskirts.

Unemployment in Saint-­Denis is at 23pc, more than twice the national average. The city of 115,000, cut in half by a network of highways, is part of France's poorest department, Seine-Saint-Denis.

There has been long-­standing criticism that hosting the ­Olympics too often fails to benefit the most needy.

"It is certain that the Olympics, despite how amazing they will be ... will not change everybody's life here or give a job to all," Saint-Denis's communist mayor Laurent Russier said.

"But they will provide great leverage for urban development, this will advance us by many years."

Despite a couple of online petitions, opposition to hosting the Olympics in France has gained little traction.

But Celine Zenou, a 27-year-old Saint-Denis resident, said what she wanted from authorities was clean streets, not the Olympics. "They should first get started on cleaning all this," she said, "Saint-Denis is a trash can."

Irish Independent

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