Paris 2024 Olympics: Condoms for athletes, but no champagne – organisers hope Games can unite a world in conflict

Paris 2024 Olympics: Condoms for athletes, but no champagne - organisers hope Games can unite a world in conflict

Olympic chiefs hope a world divided by coronavirus and conflict can be united by cardboard and condoms.

In the city of love – with pandemic-era Olympic restrictions over – Paris 2024 is encouraging amour among athletes again.

After the keys were handed over, Sky News joined Games chiefs on inspections of the Olympic Village that will welcome 9,000 athletes in July.

In the accommodation we were shown the surprising bed frame – cardboard. Sturdy enough, apparently, to support 250kg of Olympian – or Olympians.

And we were told 300,000 condoms will be available in the Olympic Village – enough for almost two each for every day of the Games.

Mixing among nations is very much encouraged again with the creation of a Village Club, after social distancing orders at the last summer Games in Tokyo in 2021 and an intimacy ban from the International Olympic Committee.

A room prepared for athletes inside the Olympic and Paralympic Village

“It is very important that the conviviality here is something big,” Laurent Michaud, director of the village, told Sky News.

“Working with the athletes commission, we wanted to create some places where the athletes would feel very enthusiastic and comfortable.”

But while a French staple is off the menu in the village there will be plenty to ensure athletes are well-nourished and refreshed.

“No champagne in the village, of course, but they can have all the champagne they want also in Paris,” said Mr Michaud, who previously ran Center Parcs in France.

“We will have more than 350 metres of buffet with the world food… and I’m sure that the athletes will be very happy to have some French specialties made over here.

“But the variety will first respond to the athletes’ needs for their nutrition and their performance.”

The Olympic Village is the single costliest Olympic project at €2bn (£1.7bn) but largely funded by property investors.

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Inside the Paris Olympic village

Around €650m of public funds have also been used for the project that regenerates this deprived area of Saint-Denis near the Stade de France.

The size of 70 football pitches, the village is split by the River Seine with a bridge to link the accommodation blocks.

For the IOC it is about avoiding white elephant projects of the past – ensuring host cities are not left with vast infrastructure built for the Olympics that has little lasting legacy.

“It’s about a responsible Games delivering less complex Games, which means less costly Games, and that’s very important because we have to be cost conscious in today’s world,” IOC member Pierre-Olivier Beckers-Vieujant, the Paris 2024 Olympic coordination commission chair, told Sky News.

“It’s a project where 95% of the venues would be either existing or temporary. So in itself, Paris had to build a very limited number of venues and or infrastructure, all of them being needed by the region, like the various infrastructure of the village here.”

There are little signs yet across Paris the Games are coming – the most visible indicators are the additional CCTV cameras being installed.

Changes to the law were required to allow AI video surveillance to be used to identify potential threats with the security concerns heightened amid the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza and Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

But organisers are still determined to take events into the heart of Paris.

The opening ceremony will be staged down the River Seine with the athletes parading on a flotilla of boats, although the terror threat has curtailed ticket availability from viewing positions.

How the opening ceremony could look. Pic: Paris 2024
How the opening ceremony could look. Pic: Paris 2024

How the opening ceremony could look. Pic: Paris 2024
Pic: Paris 2024

Urban sports will be at Place de la Concorde at the end of the Champs-Elysees, including the debut of breaking, BMX freestyle and skateboarding.

And the city’s most iconic venue – the Eiffel Tower – will be a stunning setting for beach volleyball.

Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi told Sky News: “This incredible city backdrop comes with the challenge of having this concentration of people over what is in the end a pretty small footprint.”

But it is a welcome challenge after spectators were banned from Tokyo’s venues in 2021 due to the pandemic and Rio 2016 struggled to attract large capacities.

The crowds should be back in force for the first time since London 2012 and the most tickets outside of France have been sold to fans in Britain.

Read more:
Opening ceremony could be cut back again over security fears
Paris 2024 Olympics: First look at Olympic and Paralympic medals

“It has to be a celebration and it is a celebration – we’ve had many challenges in the past,” Mr Dubi said.

“In Rio we faced situations that were amazingly complex. But what you see is that with a bit of goodwill from everyone – starting with the organisers, but also as far as the Olympic community is concerned – meeting with the challenges and coming up with solutions… is in the greater interest that the Games represent.

“What we all want is for unity, peace and a celebration of the best athletes. This is how this creative family works together.

“Any challenge? We will win.”