(ATR) Paris 2024 bid leader Tony Estanguet says the Olympic Village must provide athletes with the "best possible conditions."
Keeping the athletes' perspective in mind, the Paris 2024 board of directors chose the Pleyel area by the Seine River as the site of its Olympic Village on Thursday.
Estanguet told Around the Rings the board based their decision largely on recommendations submitted by athletes. He detailed the process during a one-on-one interview with ATR during the ANOC general assembly in Washington, D.C.
He says the bid team distributed surveys to athletes a few weeks ago asking which criteria of the village were the most important factors in terms of enhancing the athlete experience. Estanguet says nearly 150 athletes responded to the survey.
"Thanks to that feedback, we put in place an evaluation process. That was one of my conditions when asked to lead the bid, to make sure the athletes voice would be heard," Estanguet tells ATR.
Estanguet, an Olympian himself, is one member of a bid team consisting of several former athletes in leadership positions, including co-president Bernard Lapasset and chief executive officer Etienne Thobois. Estanguet and Thobois were on-hand at the ANOC general assembly along with French NOC president Denis Masseglia and general secretary Jean-Michel Brun and international relations and communications directors Marc Chevrier and Sophie Morel.
Estanguet says the athlete-leadership approach allows the bid to keep the athlete experience as the focus of all preparations for the Games.
"The Olympic Village must welcome the athletes and provide the best possible conditions as they are the most essential component of the Games and the ones who make the magic of the Games happen," Estanguet says.
Pleyel was chosen by the Paris 2024 board of directors in a unanimous decision over competitor sites Pantin and Le Bourget. Le Bourget will host the media village during the Games instead. It is located nearby the Le Bourget exhibition center that is set to hold the International Broadcasting Center and Main Press Center.
The Pleyel village will be split into two halves by the Seine river with the cafeteria on one side and the other consisting of the housing and recreational space. The incorporation of the natural river environment will provide athletes with a relaxing environment according to Paris 2024.
"The Olympic Village in Pleyel will be a positive and enriching experience for Olympians in the heart of Paris," says bid co-president Bernard Lapasset.
The Pleyel site is also located less than 2 kilometers from the Stade de France (Olympic Stadium) and soon-to-be-built aquatics center, allowing approximately 80 percent of athletes to arrive at their venues within twenty minutes.
The selection of this site demonstrates that athletes put an emphasis on proximity to venues in the surveys conducted by the bid team.
"Our decision today to select Pleyel will further strengthen the Paris 2024 bid and reflects our strong will to place the experience of the athletes at the heart of our project," Thobois said in a statement.
The estimated budget for the village is set at 1.7 billion Euros, with 70 percent slated to be raised by the private sector as opposed to public funds.
Estanguet tells ATR he understands the Olympic Village will have a large influence on the decision of IOC members at the 2017 IOC Session in Lima, Peru.
If Paris is chosen over competitors Los Angeles, Budapest, Hamburg and Rome as the host of the 2024 Games, the city would host its third Summer Games on the 100th anniversary of the last Summer Olympics in Paris. The city also hosted the 1900 Summer Games and 1968 and 1992 Winter Olympics.
Paris most recently bid for the 2012 Olympics but was beat out by host city London to stage the event. Estanguet tells ATR the new bid has learned from the mistakes of the 2005 race and is using that experience to develop a better bid.
"This time it is not about emotion. It’s much more professional because we have analyzed the criticism we received. We are trying to stay humble and I think we have improved our position since 2005," says Estanguet.
He says one of the major changes from 2005 is that city leaders are now willing to adapt the city plan to fit the Games vision.
"They understood that if we want to bid again they will have to adapt the city plan to the bid and not have the bid adapt to the city plan. It will reduce a lot the cost of the Games."
Estanguet says by doing so the bid team has the opportunity to strategically place infrastructure projects and hubs to facilitate transportation during the Games. He adds that infrastructure will not be a major cost concern for the bid as the government covers the majority of infrastructure projects within the city.
The bid leader and IOC member says the next step for the bid team is delivering a strong concept to the IOC during the Games vision presentation in February 2016.
Written by KevinNutley
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