The French have gone one better by setting it underneath their capital’s most enduring yet still utterly compelling urban artefact: the Eiffel Tower. In the first of many echoes of the past, it’s worth bearing in mind that the structure was built for a very different but still comparable global event, the Exposition Universelle in 1889. More than any other city, big shows helped build Paris.
Le Grand Palais
The historical echoes move onwards. The Grand Palais was also built for the Exposition Universelle and hosted events for the Olympics in that year. The partial reopening of Le Grand Palais is welcome as it has been closed since 2021 – though it won’t be fully open until 2025. However, the nave of the Palais is complete and is more than enough: 13,500 square metres in size with a glass roof, and due to host the fencing and taekwondo events.
Champs de Mars Arena
Only one brand new venue is being built, meaning that temporary structures will stipple the city of Paris in 2024. This is probably the most beautiful, nestled behind the Grand Palais, its curved timber structure echoing those of the older building it nearly adjoins. The Champ de Mars Arena has been used as an alternative space while the Grand Palais is being refurbished and will be kept in place for a few more months to host judo and wrestling.
One of the most imposing public spaces in Paris has had a makeover, and during the Olympics will be graced with several temporary stadia designed to host some of the newest Olympic sports. On a site first cleared to house a statue of Louis XV, various modern events – including skateboarding, 3×3 basketball, BMX freestyle and, for the first time ever, breakdancing – will be played.
It might seem incongruous, but putting relatively new sports in temporary venues in historic areas is a tried and tested strategy for the Olympics, reifying the qualities of the European city in particular: ancient and modern simultaneously.
Whoever chose to host the archery near the Hôtel des Invalides, now a French military history museum and monuments, was on to a winner. Typical of the first group of venues, Les Invalides is in the heart of Paris, with the Esplanade, one of the city’s preferred leisure destinations, a place where Parisians and tourists go to promenade and play. In 2024, it will be an area dedicated to the Games, a mixing place for athletes and spectators.