Paris will sail through choppy Olympic weather in style
January 17, 2024
You don’t hear much being said yet about the year’s biggest sports event. There is a long way to go until the Olympic Summer Games start in Paris on July 11. iSportConnect’s Jay Stuart pens down his thoughts.
I can’t help feeling that some of the buzz might still be missing a few months down the line. There are several obvious reasons why Paris may need to work harder to gain traction with the public. One is the after-effect of Covid. The impact of the pandemic on the Olympics was disastrous. The sacrosanct four-year Olympic cycle was thrown out of kilter. Tokyo had to be delayed by a year. And there were still Covid restrictions in effect when the Games finally took place. The Summer Olympics in Japan had been the most hotly anticipated in decades. Sadly, what should have been among the most memorable of Games have already been largely forgotten. Coming only three years later instead of the usual four, Paris needs to remind people what an Olympic fortnight feels like.
Another challenge is the conflict raging around the world. The war between Russia and Ukraine and the violent mess in the Middle East overshadow any good vibes from the Olympics. When people are killing each other it’s hard to care as much about who can run faster or jump higher, much less win a competition in break dancing (a new sport on the programme in Paris).
Moreover, as much as the IOC likes to talk about how the Olympics bring more countries together than the UN and the Games are a force for peace ¬ and, yes, it’s an achievement getting athletes from the two Koreas marching side by side in the Opening Ceremony ¬ when the shooting starts, the whole brotherhood of man thing looks like a bit of a sham.
Paris may aim to steer well clear of politics. But decisions on which athletes can participate and under what conditions are made by the IOC, not the organisers. The politics will be there this time, possibly on the boil.
The possibility of domestic unrest in France or terror threats might put Paris more at risk of disruption than, say, Los Angeles in 2028, but I’m not going to get into that at all. It’s probably bad luck to mention it, sorry.
The biggest challenge facing the 2024 host city is not a new one. It’s about relevance. Why should people watch the Games? And I put it that way because the whole business model depends on audience numbers, whether on broadcast TV or streaming. Everybody talks about the value of data, but at the end of the day for most of the TOP sponsors what really matters is the audience figures.
Let’s be honest, the appeal of the Games, especially for young people, isn’t what it used to be. From personal experience I know that many kids are hardly aware of the Games when they are going on and don’t watch them at all. And I would hate to have any money riding on the ability of the man or woman in the street to name even a single athlete who will take part in Paris.
That said, the Games are still the biggest and most expensive event in the world by a long way and that counts for a great deal indeed, especially with non-fans who are not interested in sports and don’t pay attention to other events. The gigantism that has put hosting the Olympics out of reach for all but a few cities is actually a saving grace. Big and expensive has its own fascination. Lots of people will always watch a luxury yacht sail by.
And you can be sure that Paris will be the prettiest yacht they have ever seen.
Do people care about canoeing or archery or modern pentathlon (if even know what that is)? Do they care about medals anymore?
I’m not sure it matters at all.
All that really matters is that they are entertained. And my prediction is that Paris 2024 will be great entertainment for a global audience ¬ because Paris as the host city will be the real star of the show.
Beach volleyball at the foot of the Eiffel Tower? 3 x 3 basketball in the Place de la Concorde? Equestrian events at Versailles?
Nothing else on the sporting calendar can offer anything so visually and culturally appealing.
And only the Olympics can galvanize a great city to such an extent. That’s why the Games remain in a class by themselves.