Thobois pleased with Paris Games preparations

Paris 2024 organisers are welcoming the pressure that comes with delivering the first Olympic and Paralympic Games of the post-COVID pandemic era.

Organising committee chief executive Etienne Thobois acknowledges those expectations are only heightened due to the iconic nature of the city, which last hosted the Olympics back in 1924.

The 2020 Tokyo Summer Games - which were postponed for a year - took place in front of empty grandstands, while the small number of spectators allowed at the 2022 Beijing Winter Games were forced to comply with rigorous protocols.

The Paris Games will have to deal with the usual concerns around security, transport and ticketing, while climate change is a bigger factor than ever before.

Then there is the ongoing issue of whether individual athletes from Russia and its ally Belarus will be allowed to compete due to the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

And it's not as though COVID-19 has completely disappeared either.

But less than 11 months out from the opening ceremony of the 2024 Olympics, Thobois is buoyant with how things are progressing overall.

"There are great expectatons for these Games because it's the Olympic Games, because it's the Paralympic Games, because the last ones were not as accessible as these ones," Thobois told a media roundtable in Paris on Thursday.

"And it's Paris - and there are great expectations around that.

"So there is some kind of positive pressure and for us as French people there is a lot at stake.

"We want to show what our country does best, we want to be able to welcome the world in a fantastic way.

"We don't want to be inhibited; we want to be over-motivated by those expectations."

The issue of climate change is front and centre for Games organisers - as it must be for sports officials everywhere.

Much of Europe has been gripped by a heatwave this summer, with wildfires tearing through Greece.

Temperatures soared in the southern French port city of Marseille during the Olympic sailing test event in July.

There are contingency plans in place to reschedule Olympic and Paralympic events in Paris next year if it gets too hot - whether that means starting earlier in the morning,  finishing later at night or moving sports to different days.

Even event cancellations are a last-resort option.

Holding the surfing half a world away from mainland France at the famed Teahupo'o break in Tahiti presents its own logistical challenges.

"For us it's a matter of pride to be able to include Tahiti within the overall concept of the Games," said Thobois, whose personal relationship with the Olympic movement dates back to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, where he represented France in badminton.

"We know it's a challenge and we're making the extra effort to connect."

Once competition is over, the surfers will be given the option of flying to Paris to take in the overall atmosphere of the Olympics.

The Paris Olympics will run from July 26 to August 11, with the Paralympics running from August 28 to September 8.

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