500-day countdown to Paris Olympics begins

500-day countdown to Paris Olympics begins

In 500 days on Tuesday, the 2024 Summer Olympics will burst into life in Paris as the teams float down the River Seine on barges in a unique opening ceremony.

The Paris Olympics and Paralympics have a lot riding on them – they involve the return of full crowds of spectators to the world’s greatest sporting spectacle after the Covid-blighted Summer Games in Tokyo in 2021 and the Winter Olympics in Beijing last year.

On top of that, the spending on the Games is being scrutinized as never before – venues are focused on Seine-Saint-Denis, the poorest area in France.

And the buildup is being buffeted by the war in Ukraine and its ramifications for competitors from that country, Russia, and its ally Belarus.

The International Olympic Committee’s suggestion that it wants to find a “pathway” for athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus to take part as neutrals in Paris moved a step closer on Friday when the International Fencing Federation said it would re-open its events to Russians.

Ukraine has reacted with fury to the prospect that its athletes will have to compete alongside their aggressors while their country is being bombed from the air and shelled by Russian tanks and has threatened to boycott the Games.

IOC president Thomas Bach has passed the decision on to the federations of individual sports, such as fencing.

Thirty countries including the United States have asked the IOC for “clarification” on how Russian athletes would be able to compete in practice.

The plans to take the opening ceremony out of its traditional stadium setting and stage it on the River Seine, framed by the Eiffel Tower and other monuments, is an organizational headache and has provoked concerns from the security services.


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