Paris 2024 : The Games as a springboard to an urban metamorphosis

The organization of the Olympic Games may be, if planning is well thought out, a major springboard for the development of a territory.

In the space of seven years, a Host City can thus, with the help of national authorities and private sector players, engage large-scale projects on the periphery of the Games alone.

(Credits – Barcelona Municipal Services)

Barcelona (Spain) remains an example of urban metamorphosis.

After the Franco dictatorship, the Catalan city has undertaken a tremendous change that has permanently changed the perception of the arteries and neighborhoods.

Transport was one of the key points of the system implemented by the authorities, such as the works of the Ronda Litoral – the coastal periphery – as well as the regeneration of the waterfront. Newly reconciled with its façade Barcelona has since become a leading tourist destination and a major European-wide business center.

The successive mayors of the city have recognized, each with their political sensitivity, the contribution of the Olympic dynamics for the development of Barcelona.

While the metamorphosis of Barcelona may have appeared as a global upheaval for the territory, it was mainly at that time to rethink each neighborhood, especially around the Olympic poles : Vall d’Hebron in the West, Poble Nou in the East, Diagonal and Montjuïc in the South.

The various undertakings involved have therefore given birth to a new city.

(Credits – Attiki Odos)

In a similar urban upgrade, although less eloquent at first, Athens (Greece) also took advantage of hosting the Olympic event to reshape its transport system and review its relationship to culture.

At the dawn of 2004, the Greek capital has thus adopted a new international airport with a capacity of 16 million passengers for an investment of € 2.5 billion.

The extension of the Athenian metro lines (€ 1.6 billion) was also registered with the support of the European Community Fund. The authorities have also initiated the construction of a tramway – which has disappeared from the streets of Athens since the first half of the 20th century – for € 350 million, as well as the extension of the suburban link between Athens and Corinth for € 640 million.

Another major project for Greek transport (€ 1.3 billion), the Attiki Odos has created a motorway ring of sixty kilometers from the capital with out again, the decisive contribution of european funds.

In the field of culture, an acceleration of the construction site of the Acropolis Museum was decided before the Games, even though the completion of the structure was only found in 2009, five years later the closing of the Olympic festivities.

A valorization of the ancient vestiges – with for example a redesigned pedestrian route – had also been engaged upstream of the Olympic Games.

Visual of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Village (Credits – Paris 2024 / Populous / Luxigon)

These two illustrations perfectly illustrate the momentum that the organization of the Games can give to a territory, although it is also necessary to relativize the contribution of the latter in the short term.

Hosting the Games is a challenge for the Host Cities and the benefits are only noticeable several years after the end of the event.

For Paris 2024, the economic impact envisaged reaches € 10.7 billion at the level of Paris region according to the Center for the Law and Economy of Sport (CDES) of Limoges (France).

Nevertheless, it is necessary above all to focus on the urban contributions of the Games for the capital region, both functional and aesthetic benefits for the population.

In fact, the City of Paris took advantage of the candidacy to the Summer Games of 2024 to imagine the future of its territory.

Visual of the “Mille Arbres” project near Porte Maillot ; one of the winners of the “Reinventing Paris” operation (Credits – OXO Architectes)

The “Reinventing Paris” operation (2014-2016) has thus established a list of 23 projects that could partly be completed before 2024. It should also be the case for the “Reinventing Paris 2” operation dedicated this time to the subways of the City of Light.

Among the emblematic installations of these international competitions, some may be corollaries to the Olympic project, like the building “Mille Arbres” near the Porte Maillot, or the subways of the Esplanade des Invalides, which will house the archery events in the summer of 2024.

(Credits – Mairie de Paris)

Independently of this double operation undertaken by the City of Paris, the reorganization of emblematic places of the capital constitutes a major project for the months and years to come.

This plan (€ 30 million) will allow by 2019 to give a new face to the squares of the Bastille, Italy, Madeleine, Nation, Pantheon, Gambetta, and Festivals.

The latter will then join the a Republique square, whose metamorphosis now symbolizes the city’s policy.

(Credits – Henri Garat / Mairie de Paris)

This urban policy is to be compared with the operations already carried out on the banks of the Seine, notably with the creation of the Parc Rives de Seine.

It also fits in with the objectives of the Cycling Plan, which aims to make Paris one of the world’s cycling capitals by 2020 with the doubling of spaces dedicated to cycling in the city (Rivoli street, etc..) for an investment of € 150 million.

It is also worth highlighting the effort made to practice sports in the neighborhoods, with the “Terrains de jeux” operation. This operation involves using unoccupied or fallow spaces to make them attractive places dedicated to local sport (installation of gymnastic equipment, etc…).

In addition to these specific actions, the City of Paris wants to take advantage of the dynamics of the Games to accelerate the transformation of symbolic sites, which are now suffering from the density of movements and uses reserved (offices, tourism, etc…).

(Credits – Nouvelle AOM / Luxigon)

The refounding of the Montparnasse district is part of this spirit, with the idea of making this space one of the lungs of attractiveness of Paris by 2024.

Decreased because of its austere architecture, the Montparnasse Tower – and the district with the same name that includes the Montparnasse Station – could well become a place of life appreciated by Parisians over the next few years.

To achieve this ambitious goal, the “Demain Montparnasse” operation was launched in late 2015 and culminated on September 19 to choose “Nouvelle AOM” cabinet to design the revival of the Tower, its surroundings and its functionalities.

In consultation with the City Halls of the 6th, 14th and 15th arrondissements, the project will be entirely financed by the Maine-Montparnasse Tour Real Estate (MITT), which is no less than one of Europe’s largest private commercial condominiums with 300 co-owners and 450 occupying companies.

In total, the project excluding taxes amounts to € 300 million.

Typical architecture of the 1970s, the Montparnasse Tower will retain a strong identity but will have an aesthetic more in line with the standards of the 21th century.

More transparent, the Tower will also be higher by eighteen meters with the installation of an agricultural greenhouse at its summit. Below, the first fourteen floors of the structure will be widened to break some of the historical lines of the building.

In any case, the project promises to make the Montparnasse Tower an example of urban integration, with an optimal location in a dense neighborhood of the French capital, and with a strong focus on energy and environmental issues, priorities of the municipal majority conducted by Mayor Hidalgo.

For example, the tinted windows of the façade will be reused partly inside the 210 meter building today (walls, furniture, etc…).

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Two other Paris sites will have a more or less complete metamorphosis by the 2024 deadline.

Historic heart of Paris, Île de la Cité is today a relatively fixed place of passage in the time which drains every year millions of tourists without being a neighborhood of life and animation.

The site should therefore benefit from an action plan by 2024 and between 2024 and 2040 according to the mission realized by Philippe Belaval and Dominique Perrault and presented to the former President of the Republic, François Hollande, in December 2016.

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On the other side of the capital, the Porte Maillot is also called to transform itself by the organization of the Games, for a dual reason, logistic and practical.

A major road axis linking Paris to its outskirts, via Neuilly, the Porte Maillot is a veritable communication hub.

With the work carried out until 2024, the roundabout will give way to a double track allowing both the integration of the T3 tramway which will be extended for a long time and the creation of the new Porte Maillot RER Eole Station which will ensure connection with RER C and metro line 1.

The works will also allow the creation of a landscaped area and housing units above the ring road. They will also facilitate the service of existing hotels which will be of particular importance in 2024.

Indeed, two four-star hotels located at the back of the Congress Palace will house members of the Olympic and Paralympic Family.

With a total of 2,000 rooms, the Hyatt Regency Paris Etoile and the Meridien Etoile are already located close to the strategic communication axes and will thus allow the members of the IOC and the sports federations to quickly access the venues of competitions and Ceremonies.

The Olympic timeline also involves other major projects in the specific field of transport.

(Credits – Mairie de Paris)

An essential point of any project for the organization of the Games, transport has proved to be one of the assets of the French project in the race for the 2024 Olympic Games.

While obvious improvements still need to be made – for the accessibility of people with reduced mobility in particular – the existing system can claim to be one of the most efficient in the world, due to its density and level of service .

As stated in the Paris 2024 Bid Book, spectators will not be more than 400 meters from a metro station at the time of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, not to mention the bus and tramway systems, as well as proposals for bicycles (Vélib’) and electric cars (Autolib’).

Beyond the existing infrastructures, the 2024 Games will benefit from the contribution of new links generated by the massive investment of the Paris region and the development of the Grand Paris Express – and the CDG Express opening of new stations near the venues dedicated to the competitions.

These venues will also have the contribution of the future tram-bus which will along the Rive Droite and which will connect in particular the approaches of Bercy and the Grand Palais.

In addition to intramural connections, Paris 2024 should also benefit from the modernization undertaken at the stations of the Paris region that serve the French province and Northern Europe.

Two facilities will be particularly concerned : Montparnasse Station and North Station.

(Credits – Altarea Cogedim)

For the first Station, the works – costing € 150 million – are expected to be completed in 2020 and be carried out in connection with the modernization of the forecourt and the Montparnasse Tower.

More luminous than today, Montparnasse Station will also offer new services with the installation of 2 panoramic elevators, an additional 19 escalators and the opening of a hundred shops and kiosks.

(Credits – Wilmotte & Associés)

For the second Station, the work should take place until 2023.

The stakes are far from negligible : with 200 million passengers a year, North Station is the first railway station in Europe and the third in the world.

The work aims to open the North Station on Paris but also to facilitate the services by creating platforms for buses and taxis. An extension of the existing naves and the installation of additional commercial spaces will also offer greater comfort and greater accessibility for mainline connections.

If the various operations will have an overall cost lower than the estimates of the initial project of the architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte (€ 800 million), it will nevertheless be necessary to count on a public-private partnership in this field for an amount between € 250 and € 300 million.

Visual of the roofs of the Olympic and Paralympic Village (Credits – Paris 2024)

With the current and upcoming projects, Paris is preparing to welcome the world in 2024 and to show a renewed face of its neighborhoods and its emblematic sites.

It is not insignificant to note that the development of the Olympic and Paralympic project was carried out in parallel with the urban plans of the capital in order to give strength and coherence to the latter.

By accompanying the Paris 2024 concept, the City of Paris, the Paris Region and the French State take the side of making the Games an accelerator of projects and not a unique but ephemeral sporting celebration.

The examples from Barcelona and London appear here as obvious sources of inspiration for the designers of the Olympic and Paralympic project.

Beyond Paris, the whole region of Paris could benefit from the contribution of the Games. Even before the capital, the department of Seine-Saint-Denis should be the main beneficiary from the point of view of the tangible and intangible legacy.

On condition of course that the challenges of the post-IOC election are fully met.

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