IOC evaluation commission kicks off Paris visit

PARIS (AP) Paris bid leaders want to capitalize on the sense of optimism surrounding new President Emmanuel Macron to beat Los Angeles and secure the Olympic Games in 2024 - not 2028.

With the IOC currently assessing a proposal to award the next two Olympics - one to each city - Paris officials insist the French capital city is the right choice for 2024.

The 39-year-old Macron, France's youngest-ever president, officially took office on Sunday as the IOC evaluation commission started a three-day visit to Paris.

''Our team has a new member, the new President of France, Emmanuel Macron,'' bid leader Tony Estanguet said on Sunday. ''He's been a fantastic supporter of our bid from the beginning. He will be with us all the way to Lima and hopefully beyond.''

Los Angeles and Paris are the only two bidders left for the 2024 Games, which will be awarded in September at a meeting of Olympic leaders in Peru. The race began with five cities, but Rome, Hamburg, Germany, and Budapest, Hungary, all pulled out.

The IOC has four vice presidents looking into the prospect of awarding the 2024 and 2028 Games at the same time in September.

''We have one goal during these few days: to convince you that Paris is the right city, with the right vision, at the right moment,'' Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said. ''The right city with world-class venues and accommodation, and the best public transport in the world, ready right now.''

International Olympic Committee members were in Los Angeles earlier this week to meet with the U.S. bid leaders and inspect their planned venues. While Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti appeared at least willing to consider hosting the 2028 Olympics if the city isn't awarded its first choice of 2024, Hidalgo said Paris is set for the earlier edition.

''With financial and political stability and support, we are ready right now,'' Hidalgo said. ''At the right moment, as the no risk option.''

Patrick Baumann, the chair of the IOC evaluation commission, said Sunday's discussions with Paris leaders focused solely on their project for 2024.

''Right now we are still in a process where we assess a potential candidacy for 2024,'' Baumann told a press conference. ''2024-2028 was not a matter of discussion.''

The French government has pledged one billion euros ($1.1 billion) of support for the Paris bid and Macron is expected to confirm that amount. If Paris is awarded the 2024 Games, the infrastructure budget is expected to total 3 billion euros, with operational costs of 3.2 billion euros.

Paris is also betting on the compactness of its plans to make the difference. According to the bid dossier, 84 percent of the athletes will be able to reach their competition venues in less than 25 minutes, and more than 70 percent of the proposed venues are existing facilities, with a further 25 percent relying on temporary structures.

Paris, which last staged the Olympics in 1924, failed in bids for the 1992, 2008, and 2012 Games.

With the pro-business and pro-EU Macron, Paris bid leaders have a strong supporter. The new president has already thrown his weight behind Paris' bid, telling IOC President Thomas Bach over the phone of its ''expected benefits for all French people.''

Macron did not attend Sunday's night gala dinner with IOC members in Paris but invited the evaluation commission on Tuesday to the Elysee Palace before they leave.

Meanwhile, the Paris team added another high-profile figure to their list of backers on Sunday as it unveiled France soccer great Zinedine Zidane as their latest ambassador.

''I was involved in several bids, but this one is really close to our hearts,'' said Zidane, who also supported the Qatar bid to host soccer's 2022 World Cup and was involved in Paris's 2008 and 2012 failed bids.

IOC members started their visit with a full day of discussions on Paris' proposals that will be followed by venue visits on Monday and further meetings on the final day.

''Our friends of Paris 2024 presented us with an exceptional and well detailed bid presentation,'' Baumann said. ''We have two cities with a wonderful Olympic spirit. It's difficult to give them less than 10 out of 10.''

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