Paris Olympics hurdles: Thorny road to Games
    Surmounting bedbugs, vagrants and civil unrest

    ANALYTICS  23 May 2024 - 12:54

    Samir Veliyev
    Caliber.Az

    As the opening date of the Olympic Games in France draws closer, Paris faces increasing challenges. It is crucial to examine the main challenges that the French capital is encountering and evaluate the potential impact on participants and visitors to the games.

    Security

    Security concerns remain a top priority in the preparations for the Olympic Games. French security services have intensified their efforts to thwart potential attacks. There has been an increase in patrols and security checks at public gatherings. Specialized units are actively working to prevent attacks, including the monitoring of suspicious individuals and taking proactive measures to counter radicalization. However, events with large crowds like the Olympics are always appealing targets for terrorists.

    The vulnerabilities of France's security services, as previously discussed in one of our articles, indicate that the risks remain significant. The recent terrorist attack at Crocus City Hall in Moscow also underscores that the threat posed by international networks should not be underestimated. Despite all the measures in place, prior terrorist incidents in the country demonstrate that the threat cannot be entirely eradicated. The organization of such large-scale events necessitates substantial resources and coordinated efforts.

    Enhanced security measures lead to increased expenses and logistical difficulties for the organizers of the Games. It is essential to ensure the physical security of venues and participants, as well as protect against cyber attacks on information systems. All of this necessitates significant financial investment and thorough planning, which France is clearly not prepared for.

    Social tensions and protests

    Paris has historically been a hub of social unrest and protest movements. Leading up to the Olympic Games, there is a possibility of widespread protests against the high costs of the Games, particularly in light of reductions in funding for social programs. Polls show that support for the Olympics among the French has decreased from 76 v in September 2021 to 58 v in June 2023. Protests could disrupt the transportation system and impact the safety of guests and participants at the games.

    Many citizens view the high costs of hosting the Olympic Games as impractical, especially during a time when social programs are facing underfunding. Recent protests include large demonstrations in Saint-Denis, where some Olympic venues are located. These protests, driven by social inequality and economic hardship, indicate a high likelihood of social discontent during an event of this scale. Saint-Denis, one of the poorest districts in Paris, is often the focal point of social discontent, underscoring the city's susceptibility to such movements.

    Furthermore, protests can significantly disrupt Paris' transportation system. Strikes by public transport workers, a common occurrence in France, could make navigating the city during the Games much more challenging. This would not only inconvenience tourists and Olympic participants but also jeopardize their safety.

    Transport and infrastructure

    Paris' transport system is expected to face significant challenges during the Olympics. The city is already dealing with overloaded public transport and a shortage of hotel accommodations. Authorities are considering using student housing to accommodate Games staff, which is causing dissatisfaction among local residents. Additionally, the outdated public transport system may struggle to handle increased passenger traffic, especially in hot weather. Peak loads on infrastructure, including subways and buses, could lead to frequent delays and strain existing resources.

    Infrastructure projects aimed at modernizing the transport system are progressing slowly, adding uncertainty to the city's ability to manage the surge in passenger numbers. Furthermore, the potential for transport strikes, which are common in France, could worsen the city's mobility issues during the Olympics. These factors collectively pose significant risks, necessitating careful planning and coordination between city authorities and Olympic organizers to ensure smooth and comfortable movement for all participants and visitors.

    Homelessness

    Homelessness remains a major issue in Paris, with an estimated half of France's 200,000 homeless people living in and around the city. This problem has intensified as the city prepares for the Olympic Games. To ease the strain on Paris, authorities are relocating homeless individuals to other cities across the country. Since April 2023, approximately 1,800 people have been moved as part of this effort.

    The decision faced criticism from human rights organizations and the public. Many homeless people lost access to charitable organizations that provided them with food, medical care, and employment opportunities in the capital. Resettlement often occurred in regions with less developed infrastructure, worsening the situation for people. Additionally, the cancellation of contracts with hotels to house the homeless exacerbated the problem. These hotels, which had previously provided temporary accommodation for the homeless, are now making room for the expected influx of tourists.

    Authorities claim that these measures are aimed at not only improving the city's image before the Olympics but also providing a long-term solution to the homeless problem. However, critics point out that such actions often marginalize the homeless and worsen their living conditions. Homeless people relocated to new cities face difficulties in finding jobs and re-establishing social ties, making their situation even more vulnerable.

    Bedbug panic

    Paris has recently faced a severe bedbug infestation. Official figures indicate that one in ten Parisians has encountered these pests in the past five years. The situation escalated in the summer of 2023, causing widespread panic among residents and tourists.

    Reports of bedbugs in public transport, cinemas, and hotels quickly spread through social media, tarnishing the city's reputation ahead of the Olympics. The problem has become so severe that the deputy mayor of Paris, Emmanuel Gregoire, has requested the government to declare the infestation a national health crisis. Bedbugs have been found in the metro, high-speed trains, and even at Charles de Gaulle airport.

    Environmental and cultural challenges

    Paris is grappling with significant environmental challenges. The increasing number of cars is worsening air quality, with pollution levels exceeding permissible standards and adversely affecting the health of residents and tourists. In response, the authorities are implementing measures to improve the environment, such as using geothermal heating and cooling systems in the Olympic Village. This initiative showcases the organizers' commitment to making the Games more environmentally friendly and sustainable.

    However, critics argue that these measures are insufficient to address all of the capital's environmental issues. The city continues to struggle with high levels of emissions from vehicles and industry. A more comprehensive approach is needed, including enhancing public transport, promoting the use of electric cars, and expanding green spaces.

    Additionally, the decision to remove traditional book kiosks along the Seine to accommodate Olympic spectators has sparked outrage among citizens and cultural figures. These kiosks, known as "bouquinistes," have been an integral part of Paris' cultural heritage since the 16th century and are considered an important element of the city's culture. Their removal is seen as a loss of part of the city's unique identity and has drawn criticism from local residents and cultural advocates.

    Conclusion

    The 2024 Olympic Games in Paris pose not only a sporting, but also a social and economic challenge for the city. Addressing the aforementioned issues requires the authorities to work together cohesively. However, the problems mentioned indicate a lack of successful action by the French authorities thus far. These unresolved issues could significantly impact France's global standing. This raises the question: will the upcoming Olympic Games be another failure for Paris? It is quite possible that this could indeed be the case.

    Caliber.Az

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