Olympic Day celebrations took part at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis on Sunday (26 June), just over two years before the start of the 2024 Games in the city.
The Paris 2024 Organising Committee hosted an event to initiate people in over 30 Olympic and Paralympic sports including skateboarding, tennis, wheelchair basketball, BMX, breaking, and badminton, plus sailing and rowing on the Saint-Denis Canal, helped by professional coaches from the National federations.
“I am so excited to see this atmosphere two years before the Games”, said Tony Estanguet, President of Paris 2024. “This feeling that for the people it’s a unique chance to meet athletes, and to discover all the disciplines which will be at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“There is everything here: It’s spectacular with the best French athletes showing the best of their sports but it’s also a great opportunity to try these sports. I remember when I was a kid I had the chance to try many sports and I think it’s great.”
Anne-Cecile Ciofani: “I hope it can make them dream and give them hope”
This Olympic day celebration was also a chance to showcase one important aspect of the next Games: Being open to the people.
Thousands of adults and children joined the event in the middle of a giant field of 40,000 square meters with some of the biggest French athletes.
“From the beginning we wanted to open the Games to the majority of people”, commented Estanguet, making a parallel with the Paris 2024 Opening Ceremony that will take place on the Seine river with over 600,000 people expected.
“For us, the success of Paris 2024 will be through a spectacular celebration of sport but also by having a legacy by having more people doing sport, by engaging them.
“Engagement is part of our concept since the beginning and that’s why we have regular events like this one at the Stade de France but also at schools in 3000 cities in the whole country. This engagement is key for the Games.”
French judo athlete Romane Dicko, who won gold in the mixed team event in Tokyo 2020 and bronze in +78kg event, enjoyed the crowd in Saint-Denis after the Tokyo 2020 Games was held without spectators due to Covid restrictions.
“It’s amazing because in Tokyo, there was no public, and seeing how French people are excited about Olympics in two years is amazing.”
Anne-Cécile Ciofani, a silver medallist from Tokyo 2020, who was elected best female rugby player of the year in 2021, was introduced to a Paralympic sport.
“I tried wheelchair basketball and I could talk with the kids. We were all at the same level. I hope it can make them dream and give them hope. In my discipline, it’s tough when you are a woman but I hope, by meeting those girls, to show them it’s possible.
“What’s interesting today is that we can see Olympic sports as well as para sports”, said Jerome, a former wheelchair basketball club coach and president. “It’s not because they are in wheelchairs that they are not athletes, they train the same way, they train hard, twice a day, they do some workout. They are real athletes.”
“Getting inspired by each other”
Kids and teenagers could practice their passion and try new sports, as well as meet with new people. Like Selma, a young footballer from Tremblay-en-France, in the suburb of Paris, who tried badminton, canoe, and table tennis.
“This kind of event makes me want to participate at the Games as I love when people can speak with everybody,” she said. “Gathering such an amount of people in one place is amazing.”
Participants could also attend shows such as BMX, breaking or skateboarding on the main stage, where a climbing wall and a skateboarding vert was set to help introduce the French public to the two recently-added Olympic sports and their culture.
“It’s an honor that France welcomes breaking in Paris,” said Brice, an athlete from Nantes in the new Olympic sport of breaking, who came to the Olympic Day event to participate at a competition. “I think it’s important that athletes come here to see the culture of my sport. We could also talk with gymnasts, who has very strict training, and share our experience.
“We could get inspired from each other.”