(ATR) Bernard Lapasset tells Around the Rings that France does not fear a U.S. bid for the 2024 Olympics, if Paris decides to run.
The U.S. Olympic Committee is due to select its 2024 candidate from Boston, LA, San Francisco and Washington in January. Many Olympic observers believe a U.S. bid will start out favorite in a race that will feature either Berlin or Hamburg, and may include Rome, Istanbul and other cities.
But not Lapasset.
"Today, nobody knows who will be winning in 2024. Nobody is done. Nobody is closed," he told ATR after a meeting of around 300 French sports leaders at the French NOC’s headquarters in Paris Tuesday.
"We have the opportunity. Every bid has the chance to win. That is really the feeling we have now. We are working in position to win for France. The others are working for themselves," he added.
When asked if a U.S. bid was a factor in determining whether Paris should run, he said, "No, no no."
The president of the International Rugby Board chairs the Comite Francais du Sport International, which is driving a three-part feasibility study into a possible Paris 2024 bid.
Tuesday marked another step on that journey. French sports leaders were updated about the work of 12 commissions who have spent this year assessing themes that will impact a bid.
Describing the work of the commissions as a "giant brainstorming," Lapasset said the meeting aimed to showcase the unity of the French sports movement behind an Olympic bid. A total of 36 meetings have taken place involving 286 participants; 250 proposals emerged.
Lapasset was joined by IOC members Guy Drut, Tony Estanguet, World Olympians Association president Joel Bouzou and NOC president Denis Masseglia in speaking about various aspects of the nearly year-long scoping study. In a 2-hour long session, heads of the 12 commissions explained a few ideas that have emerged from meetings with Olympic stakeholders over the course of this year.
Former sports minister Valerie Fourneyron and the deputy mayor of sport for the city were present. Daniel Zielinski, head of the government’s sports cabinet, delivered a message on behalf of sports minister, saying the government supported the CNOSF’s process and would help the sports movement to go further.
In his opening address, Lapasset said the 12 working groups had sought to answer the question of why an Olympics would be good for France. A feasibility study on the technical and financial aspects and results of a study of the global context for a 2024 bid will emerge in January.
In January, the three-part study will be submitted to the CNOSF. Together with government input, it will decide whether to pursue an Olympic bid or drop the plan. A final decision on a Paris pitch for the 2024 Games would then be made in the summer.
Elephants in the Room
After the disastrous Annecy 2018 Winter Olympic bid, which garnered only seven votes in 2011, Lapasset said examination of a potential bid had to be carefully thought through with the sport movement and state working together with Paris.
Asked by ATR whether the experience of Annecy loomed large in consideration of a bid, Lapasset was keen to focus on the future.
"It’s finished. The past is the past move on to the future," he said. "The messaging is very clear. The process is done for that. We are [now] participating together, working together in unity, the same vision, same process, same objective."
However, Masseglia admitted that Oslo’s demise in the 2022 bid race was something that deserved scrutiny as part of the CNOSF’s bidding study.
"I think we must reflect about the position, not only made by Oslo but also by Munich [rejected in a referendum]," he told ATR.
The French NOC chief said one of the lessons to be drawn from the 2022 bidding contest, now a two-horse race between Almaty and Beijing, was the importance of communicating the benefits of staging the Games and what it could do for the lives of the population.
"We need time to explain, convince," he said of winning the hearts and minds of the French population and government support.
"We are confident," he added.
Masseglia said mobilizing the population behind a bid was the challenge. He promised that no public money would be used to finance a bid, which Lapasset estimated would cost 80 million euros.
World Expo Concerns
At a press conference that followed the meeting, Lapasset dismissed the suggestion that the French government viewed the 2025 World Expo as a more important project than the Olympics.
Last month, Prime Minister Manuel Valls threw his weight behind plans for the Expo, appearing to threaten a Paris Olympic bid. He said the application to host the exhibition was a great opportunity "for the global image of the Paris and France."
Quizzed about this by ATR, Lapasset shrugged off concerns, saying a possible bid for the world exposition could be run in parallel with a pitch for the 2024 Olympics.
"They are not in opposition. We are totally in favor of both. It’s not the same agenda, not the same people. For us, we continue our way.
"The government said it supports the Expo but doesn’t say it doesn’t support the sport [bid]," he added.
Reported by Mark Bisson
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