paris: sport's playground for the 2020's
Jonathan Rest casts his eye across the Channel to analyse Paris’ push for sporting and economic dominance.
As we enter an Olympic year, focus across the sports industry turns to Tokyo.
But for international federations and event organisers, the vision is longer-term as Paris, the next recipient of the Olympic Flame, begins to build up its portfolio of world and continental championships in the lead-up to the 2024 games.
Venues, transport plans and logistics will all need ‘live’ testing over the next few years, while post-2024 national federations, the CNOSF (the French Olympic Committee) and city officials will all be keen to ensure that Olympic buzzword – legacy – is adhered to in the strongest possible manner.
Paris’ decade of major events really kicked off with the final of Uefa Euro 2016, with world championships in ice hockey, handball and wrestling following in 2017 – the year the capital secured the 2024 Olympics – and the finals of women’s handball’s European Championships.
Then last year brought the Fifa Women’s World Cup, the standard bearer for the tournament going forward.
The new decade immediately brings with it the World Indoor Rowing Championships, European Athletics Championships and Women’s European Artistic Gymnastics Championships, while basketball will dominate Paris’ calendar in 2021 with the finals of FIBA Women’s EuroBasket and the FIBA 3X3 Europe Cup, the short format of the sport that will be readying for its second successive summer Olympics in 2024.
Three more World Championships are already in the bank, the 2022 UCI Track Cycling World Championships, 2023 Rugby World Cup and 2025 Badminton World Championships, as it stands the first event to be filed under the Olympics legacy banner.
With a brand new aquatics centre being built in the Saint-Denis suburb, European and World Swimming Championships will no doubt be on the hosting agenda over the next 10 years.
“The city’s sporting ambition is being matched by the French government’s financial commitment.”
Paris was second in Sportcal’s 2019 ‘Global Sports City' index, two spots higher than in 2018, and will be eyeing Tokyo’s position at the summit when the Japanese capital completes its Olympics responsibilities.
The city’s sporting ambition is being matched by the French government’s financial commitment, with the sports ministry’s budget having been increased 10 per cent year-on-year to over €700 million for 2020.
Around 1 per cent of that figure has been put aside for major events in the capital this year, headlined by the European Athletics Championships at the Stade Charléty, which is expected to play host to an estimated 100,000 spectators over the five days of competition in late August.
Another outlay from the sports ministry went on the Global Sports Week, a new conference that debuted to much industry fanfare in Paris in early February.
More than 1,000 people descended on the Louvre Museum for GSW, dubbed the World Economic Forum for Sport, and an event to which French president Emmanuel Macron conferred his high patronage.
GSW drew some of the biggest names in sports administration, alongside business and economics figures. And being Paris, there was, of course, a touch of fashion and culture thrown into the mix.
With the Rugby World Cup and Olympic Games on the horizon, Macron is known to be keen to use sport as the common denominator to showcase Paris’ business and technological prowess.
“We chose London for this launch, recognising the city’s long-time position as Europe’s sport business powerbase. At the same time, Global Sports Week is also a reflection of Paris’ emerging status as a new focal point of world sport.”
GSW chose London as its launch destination last September, a not so subtle nudge that the centre of sport and business is set to move across the Channel over the next few years.
GSW president Lucien Boyer, the former president and global chief executive of Havas Sports & Entertainment, the brand engagement network of the French advertising giant, said at the launch: “We chose London for this launch, recognising the city’s long-time position as Europe’s sport business powerbase. At the same time, Global Sports Week is also a reflection of Paris’ emerging status as a new focal point of world sport.
“The context of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the France 2023 Rugby World Cup is obvious – and Global Sports Week is contributing further to this dynamic.”
Speaking to Sportcal Insight on the sidelines of that launch event, Boyer said: “President Macron is willing to push initiatives that push France forward in different industries, sport being an important one. This is about how France can contribute to the future of sport globally and give a voice to that international conversation.
“Paris has a role to play here as a leader in aligning sports with the demands of a new generation that are changing the rules in all industries.”
Combining those sport and business interests, Paris is fast becoming the go-to destination for tech entrepreneurs, with Station F at the heart of its rise.
The former rail freight depot is home to over 1,000 start-ups - a third of them from abroad - and is now the biggest start-up hub in the world, with German sportswear giant Adidas choosing the campus a year ago to launch its sports accelerator programme, ‘Platform A’.
Adidas has invested over €1 million in the programme, which aims to identify the potential for new strategically important projects in the areas of digital, global sales and community building.
With uncertainty over London’s role as the centre for sport, business and technology in a post-Brexit world, Paris is seemingly well set to take advantage.