Organisers of the Paris 2024 Olympics have unveiled a spectacular and audacious plan for the biggest opening ceremony in history, with a 6km parade of athletes in boats along the River Seine watched by more than 600,000 people. The athletes, who will be in more than 160 boats, will pass by Paris’s most iconic monuments, bridges and cultural institutions, including Notre Dame, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.
Along the length of the Seine, the emblematic river in the heart of the city, dozens of artistic performances are expected to take place, including BMX stunt riders leaping high over bridges. The ceremony will then conclude with a final show at the Place du Trocadéro, which faces the Eiffel Tower. Not only will the opening ceremony be bigger than ever before but, for the first time, most of it will be free to spectators.
Tony Estanguet, the president of the Paris 2024 organising committee, told the Guardian it would be the most “audacious and accessible” opening ceremony in the Games’ history. “It’s not the easiest way to deliver the Games, but it is our duty to be really ambitious,” he said. “It is the launch of the Olympics. It has to send a strong message that those Games will be unique.
“One billion people will watch the ceremony. We want them to feel the best of France. It will be a unique combination of a sport and cultural moment, with the entire city turned into a vast Olympic stadium.”
No director has yet been confirmed for the ceremony. However, in announcing the proposals in Paris on Monday evening, Estanguet promised the ceremony would be a “true moment of marvellous madness”.
“The Seine represents the track, and the quays the spectators’ stands,” he said. “We want to ensure that we will showcase the best of sport, the best of culture, and offer a good show with music. The potential is unlimited. And over 600,000 people will have access – about 10 times more people than if it was staged in a traditional stadium. It will be a spectacular show.”
The organisers’ plan is part of a wider policy to reimagine the Games, and take it to new audiences, with sports like breaking. Competitions will also be staged in the heart of the city, including beach volleyball at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, and equestrian sports at the Chateau de Versaille. Mass participation cycling and running events will also be staged on the Olympic courses during Paris 2024.
Estanguet said he had the 10,000 participants at the Paris 2024 Games in mind when coming up with such innovative opening ceremony proposals. “I’ve been an Olympic athlete and it’s been magical,” he said. “But it’s also right to say that many athletes don’t participate in the opening ceremony because of the constraints of standing for hours and also getting back quite late to the village.
“But with the boat parade they will have the choice to go back to the village if they want to go to bed early, or to stay for the second part of the ceremony in a mini stadium by the Trocadero in the face of the Eiffel Tower. Another part of our thinking is that we wanted to use the existing landmarks of Paris, not build them within the stadium.”
Estanguet, a former canoeist and the only French athlete to have won a gold medal at three Olympic Games, also confirmed that organisers were working on announcing plans for the mascot and torch relay.
“To be honest with you, I’m very comfortable with the way this project is going,” he said. “We have set and maintained the right level of ambition. We are still on budget. We are still on time. We will have difficulties to face over the coming years, because that always happens. But touch wood: so far, so good.”