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The Paris Olympics: An Opening Ceremony like no other

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The Paris Olympics is celebrating a lot of firsts. Alongside Tokyo 2020, Paris 2024 is one of the first Olympics to achieve gender parity and use (super cool) recycled materials for its olympic medals. But Paris stands out as the first Olympic host to cut its carbon emissions by half, and by offering an unprecedented open-air, inclusive Opening Ceremony with athletes parading on boats down the River Seine.

In the third installment on the Paris Olympics blog series, we’ll take a look into the Opening Ceremony’s innovative approach and extensive sustainability efforts undertaken to mark this momentous occasion.

The River Seine serves as the Opening Ceremony venue. Photo: paris2024.org/en/ceremony/

The Opening Ceremony: A historic setting

For the first time in Olympic history, the Opening Ceremony will not take place in a stadium. Instead, Paris is taking the bold step of hosting the ceremony along the Seine. The choice of location underscores a commitment to making the Olympics accessible to a broader audience, expecting to attract hundreds of thousands of spectators along the riverbanks and bridges of Paris.

The River Seine runs through the heart of Paris and is intertwined with the city’s cultural and historical identity. By using the river as the centerpiece for the Opening Ceremony, the organizers of the 2024 Olympics aim to showcase the beauty and iconic landmarks of Paris to the world, creating a memorable and distinctly Parisian experience. The route passes by famous monuments such as Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower, providing a stunning backdrop for the event​​​​.

Paris has undertaken significant efforts to clean the river, making it a symbol of ecological renewal. By highlighting the Seine in such a prominent manner, Paris 2024 sends a strong message about the importance of waterway conservation and urban ecological projects​​.

The River Seine: An ambitious €1.4 billion clean-up

For the first time in 100 years, the Seine will be clean enough to swim in. Or, at least that is Paris’ ambitious goal. Paris’ €1.4 billion, historic clean-up was motivated by the desire to make the river clean enough for competitions and other activities planned for the Olympic Games. Not only are three Olympic and Paralympic events — triathlon, marathon swimming, and Para-triathlon — planned to be held in the Seine, but by summer 2025 there will be multiple open-air swimming areas accessible to the public. While it is still uncertain whether the river will be sufficiently clean by then to host these events, plans for the public swimming areas are set to proceed as planned.

How are they doing it? 

The ambitious cleanup project involves a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach. Authorities have targeted homes upstream and houseboats on the Seine that were discharging sewage directly into the river, mandating their connection to Paris’ sewage network. This was part of an Olympic law adopted in 2018, which also includes improvements to sewage treatment plants on the Seine and its tributary, the Marne​​.

Dan Angelescu, CEO of the monitoring company Fluidion, testing the waters of the Seine in May this year. Photo: Stéphanie Lecocq/Reuters

A large portion of the clean-up budget was allocated towards developing a new storm drain system and a massive underground storage tank capable of holding 45,000 cubic meters of water. This will help mitigate overflow during rainstorms, aiming to substantially reduce sewage discharge into the Seine.

A celebration of French culture and global unity

The Opening Ceremony on the Seine. Photo: paris2024.org/en/ceremony/

The river-based Opening Ceremony embodies a blend of tradition and innovation, setting new standards for how the Games can engage with urban environments and the global community. Breaking away from the tradition of stadium-bound ceremonies creates an inclusive approach to the opening ceremony, allowing more people to witness the ceremony first-hand. 

The decision to utilize the heart of Paris as the venue underscores a desire to bring the celebration closer to the people, making it a truly public event in ways previous Olympics have not achieved.

Are you ready for Paris? Check out the rest of the series to catch up:

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