On the spot

Pierre Rabadan

Deputy Mayor of Paris,

in charge of Sport and Olympic and Paralympic Games

Executive Committee Member

As a new member of the World Union of Olympic Cities’ Executive Committee, could you introduce yourself and say in a few words what are your expectations vis-à-vis the Association?

I was a professional rugby player at the Stade Français where I defended the colours of Paris for more than 17 seasons; I was even captain for a few years. In 2015, after my retirement from professional sports, I joined the Mayor of Paris’s office as a sports advisor. In this capacity, I supported the candidacy of Paris as Host City for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games alongside Anne Hidalgo. We promoted the City’s sports policy as well as all the major sporting events held during the Mayor’s first term. Following the municipal elections in June 2020, I was elected Councillor of Paris and was then appointed Deputy Mayor of Paris in charge of sport and Olympic and Paralympic Games.
I am delighted to join the Executive Committee of the World Union of Olympic Cities, alongside its President Grégoire Junod. I have already seen the Union’s ability to act in networks and more broadly, to bring together sport players in all their diversity, thanks in particular to the Smart Cities & Sport Summit. I will be fully involved in the activities of the association, bringing Parisian know-how to its benefit. I expect a lot from this multilateral dialogue and from the experience-based approach and legacy expertise that the association promotes. First of all, in regard to the IOC, as the Union is a privileged relay for the challenges that our territories meet, so that they are taken more into account in the Games’ organisational model. I know the IOC is sensitive to these issues and I would like to involve the World Union of Olympic Cities in the reflections and decision-making on the preparation for the Paris 2024 Games to strengthen and enhance our legacy strategy.

Paris will host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the first ever edition integrating all of the IOC 2020 Agenda requirements, including sustainability and legacy. How has the City of Paris prepared its Olympic legacy? 

The issue of legacy was our first concern. When we embarked on this Olympic adventure, we defined a course of action from which we have never deviated: we are preparing Games that are economically restrained, sustainable and useful to the population. In the bid phase, the City adopted a support plan including 43 measures to accelerate its public policies, with a view towards transforming the territory and improving citizens’ quality of life. This initiative was instrumental in engaging the population in our project.
Following the IOC decision to award the Games to Paris one hundred years after the legendary 1924 Games, we wanted to compare these measures with civil society’s ideas and expectations. At the end of an unprecedented consultation phase (more than 10,000 participants in 8 major events and 60 meetings organised by the City for one year; 1,200 ideas and projects collected), our legacy programme took shape. In June 2019, it was structured around 20 flagship ambitions: “Olympic Transformations – Games for the People of Paris”. This title reflects a very strong ambition to foster our public policies in order to transform and adapt our city to the major climate, environmental and social challenges that will be decisive for its future. We must therefore continue to interact with our local associative fabric and our inhabitants to inform them on the collective work undertaken to achieve the identified objectives.
This legacy is also the fruit of an ongoing dialogue with all institutional partners, first and foremost, OCOG and SOLIDEO. This has already made it possible to obtain strong commitments, like the social charter of the Games which reserves 25% of the Games markets for VSEs / SMEs and social and solidarity economy. And 10% of work hours generated are attributed to workers in a situation of professional integration. Finally, I would like to underline the numerous exchanges with the other host communities of the Games and the inter-ministerial delegation to the Olympic and Paralympic Games. As I often repeat, these Games are not only those of Paris but of the whole of France. They are a lever of rapprochement that allows us to provide unified responses to local challenges: for example, we signed an agreement in 2016 with the department of Seine Saint-Denis to harmonise some public policies, break down physical and ideological borders, create links and bridges in order to reduce inequalities by improving mobility between our two territories.
It is certain that the legacy we will manage to create will be one of the main indicators of the success of Paris 2024 Games.

How does Paris combine its ambition in terms of environment/climate/sustainability with the hosting of major sport events?

I believe that we must now generate a new and more virtuous model of organisation of major international sporting events. This is why in Paris we make sure to host positive impact events and build sustainable equipment and infrastructure in order to leave a strong legacy for the Parisians. To do this, we rely on the ISO 20121 standard, for which we were certified in 2016. This normative framework has enabled us to set up a responsible management system within our organisation, ensuring that sustainable development challenges are included within every sporting event activity.
The 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games will allow us to go even further. Collectively, we have very high environmental ambitions, aligned with the commitments of the Paris Agreement and the recommendations of the IOC’s Agenda 2020: -55% of greenhouse gas emissions compared to London 2012; carbon neutrality, thanks, in particular, to offsetting emissions that cannot be avoided, the establishment of an ambitious chain of certified sustainable food, supply of 100% of sites with renewable energies and 100% of sites accessible by public transport and by bike.
Beyond these operational objectives, the Games are a tremendous accelerator for ecological transition in Paris. The 2024 deadline will allow us to make significant progress in making the Seine swimmable, the flagship measure of our legacy program, or even eradicating single-use plastic.

What are the City of Paris’ strategies to continue being a sports destination/city (sport events, conferences, sport practice, etc.) during this time of pandemics?

More than ever, the City wants to make sport a pillar of the recovery in Paris, in support of the sector which has been hit hard by the crisis. In light of the hosting of the Games, our priority is to strengthen the place of sport at the heart of our public policies, in all areas where it allows significant progress: health, education, citizenship, solidarity, etc. Working with clubs and associations will be essential as they are the engine of social inclusion and civic engagement.
To achieve this, we have assets such as the organisation of major international sporting events in Paris which, despite the crisis, remains a central place in Europe. This will be the case again this summer with the Tennis Open in Roland-Garros, the European 3X3 basketball championship at the Trocadéro and the Archery World Cup competitions over the next three years, with the 2023 Rugby World Cup and the 2024 Games on the horizon. Other sports and new practices being developed could complete this program. Indeed, we hope to host one or more MLB games in 2025 on the NBA model which, after a successful event in 2020, will return to Paris to organise a regular season game in the coming years.
We put the attractiveness of these events to the benefit of local public policies by correlating their hosting with a support plan that allows for the mobilisation of actors in the Parisian territory and guarantees concrete benefits for inhabitants. With this in mind, I would like Paris to become a future destination for major international parasport events, starting with the World Para-Athletics Championships in 2023. This would potentially accelerate the change in collective representations of disability, promote the development of parasport and make Paris a more inclusive city.
I also do not forget the importance of hosting international forums that participate in the mobilisation of the sport ecosystem, in the broad sense of the term. The Global Sports Week, held in Paris at the beginning of February, brought together all future Olympic Games host cities (Tokyo, Beijing, Milan, Dakar, Los Angeles) and was rich in exchanges and sharing of good practices. It is in this spirit that one could imagine hosting the Smart Cities & Sport Summit in Paris!

How does the difficult health and economic situation impact your projects and the preparation of the Olympic and Paralympic Games?

The official launch of the Paris Olympiad has been adjourned due to the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Games.
We had to adapt as you can imagine, mainly the events portion of our projects. We were supposed to set up a facility called, “Trocadero 2020” in front of the Eiffel Tower in order to celebrate the Games, but we decided to postpone it for one year to allow the public to follow the Olympic and Paralympic competitions that will take place in Japan.
Despite the exceptional constraints of the moment, we have managed to maintain a whole series of projects, from Olympic Day to the first sport and culture actions of the Cultural Olympiad which will soon begin in Paris, including the School Sports Games. This is an annual event that allows young Parisians to learn about Olympic values ​​and discover Olympic and Paralympic sports. The health protocol made it impossible for children to meet around sport, but the use of digital tools allowed us to maintain the playful and unifying spirit of the system while allowing children to get a taste of the Games.
As part of the preparation for the Games, our ambition remains intact. The health crisis has highlighted the need to strengthen the responsible dimension of our project, focused on cost control, sustainability and inclusion. In this sense, the concept of the sites has been readjusted with regard to our budgetary commitments, without making any concessions on what constitutes the strength of our project. I am convinced that we can emerge stronger from this health crisis and use the Games as leverage for economic recovery.