French Prime Minister Jean Castex laid a symbolic foundation stone for the 2024 Paris Olympic Aquatic Centre on Monday, a site swimming chiefs said would leave a lasting legacy for one of France’s most deprived areas. The 6,000-seater centre will be constructed just 400 metres from the national stadium, the Stade de France, in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, and will host diving events, water polo and synchronized swimming. Swimming events at the Games will be held in a temporary 17,000-seater pool at La Defense Arena, an already existing indoor stadium that is home to French Top 14 rugby team Racing 92, in the western Parisian business district of La Defense.
Open water swimming will be held at the Pont d’Iena in the Seine River in central Paris.
Saint-Denis is a multicultural Parisian suburb that suffers from high crime rates, but Brent Nowicki, executive director of aquatic sports’ global governing body FINA, insisted it was the right location.
“That is where you put the pool, this is where you change lives, this is where you give that one child the opportunity to swim in the pool,” Nowicki told AFP.
“That is a strategic decision and I think it’s the right one. It’s a special moment for the people of Paris, the people of Saint-Denis.”
Nowicki added: “When you look at the plan put forward for the aquatic centre, you’re reminded of the vision of Paris 2024.
“It isn’t about today, it’s about tomorrow. It’s not for this generation, it’s for generations to come who will enjoy that and take on that legacy and have that opportunity to look back and realise this was done for them.”
Prime Minister Castex, with whom Nowicki spoke after the ceremony, said “the timetable will be adhered to” regarding construction works.
Castex also oversaw an inter ministerial committee meeting to talk about preparations for the Olympics.
The premier asked Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin to make some “suggestions” over security for Olympic sites, notably the opening ceremony which 2024 organisers say could take place on the Seine River.
“We’ll host the Olympics at several different sites with a particularly original opening ceremony,” Castex said.
“All of that must take place in optimal security conditions so I have asked all those involved, firstly the interior minister, to make some suggestions… by the end of the year for the opening ceremony and June 2022 at the latest for all sites and events.”
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