The 2024 Paris Paralympic Games will not be open to stadiums

PARIS (AP) – The world’s best Paralympic athletes, parading down France’s most famous boulevard with their prosthetic limbs, wheelchairs and tales of hardship, are heading for a grand celebration of their heroism and sport in the Paris square where French revolutionaries chopped off heads in 1789.

Organizers in Paris announced Thursday their plans for the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games, an event with 4,400 athletes that will follow the first post-Covid-19 Olympics in less than two years.

What attracts attention is the place itself: first of all, the opening performance of the Paralympic Games will be freed from the traditional stadium setting and instead will be held outdoors in the heart of the French capital, on the Champs-Elysées boulevard and the city’s largest square, Place de la Concorde.

The once blood-soaked square where King Louis XVI, his queen, Marie Antoinette and other nobles were guillotined during the French Revolution that laid the first foundations of modern France is shaping up to be an attractive focal point for the Paris Games.

Set as a jewel between the Tuileries Gardens, the River Seine and the magnificent Hotel Crillon, the square will be transformed into an arena for the new Olympic sports of breakdancing, 3-on-3 basketball, BMX cycling and skateboarding, returning to the program after its Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games postponed due to the pandemic in 2021.

Just 17 days after the July 26-Aug. At the 11th Paris Olympics, the Place de la Concorde will then take center stage for an unprecedented opening ceremony from Aug. 28-Sept. 8 Paralympic Games.

International Paralympic Committee president Andrew Parsons predicted the ceremony would be “a thing of beauty and a once-in-a-lifetime event that will go down in all our histories.”

“All this festival of inclusion begins with a truly unique experience of thousands of Paralympians parading down the most famous avenue in the world.” What an incredible thrill it will be to enter the Champs-Élysées and then descend to the Place de la Concorde, all the while framed by the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre,” he said in remarks distributed by 2024 organizers.

Organizers said the ceremony would hold 65,000 people – the equivalent of crowding a large Olympic stadium.

The president of the French Paralympic and Sports Committee, Marie-Amélie Le Fur, said getting rid of stadium boundaries was a “revolution”.

“To walk down the Champs-Élysées to the Place de la Concorde and share this with almost 65,000 people, in the heart of the capital, will be a historic moment,” she said. “That’s outrageous.”

Around 30,000 attendees will be able to watch the ceremony for free.

The choice of venue is part of a major effort by Paris organizers to free the Olympic and Paralympic Games from the shackles of traditional sports facilities and turn the French capital into a huge playground for sports during the Games, with the Eiffel Tower, Grand Palais and other landmarks used as competition venues.

The concept – embodied in the official slogan “Games Wide Open” – is not without risks. Using city locations as venues presents security, transport and logistical challenges.

The opening ceremony of the Olympic Games will also break with tradition, going to the waters of the Seine instead of the stadium.

Boats will parade with 10,500 athletes on the waterway from east to west. Organizers are planning at least 600,000 spectators, most of whom do not have tickets and are watching for free, and are billing it as the biggest opening ceremony in Olympic history.

The opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic and Paralympic Games will be directed by award-winning French theater director Thomas Joly.


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