Goodbye Tokyo, hello Paris. The closing ceremony of the Olympic Games, Sunday August 8, marks the passing of the torch to the French capital in view of the 2024 Olympic Games. This event is actively defended by Emmanuel Macron and Tony Estanguet, president of the Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games in Paris (Cojo).
Among the concerns regularly raised: a possible budget overrun for future Games and the cost of these for the French taxpayer. “Public money represents only 3% of the total budget”, assured the President of the Republic in a daily interview The team (subscribers article), July 25. But is the head of state right? Franceinfo’s True or Fake cell dissected this claim.
Emmanuel Macron’s argument is not new. Tony Estanguet hammered it, for example, in March, when he was heard by the senators. Paris 2024 had put it forward, in September, to respond to a forum of intellectuals accusing the Olympics of “squandering public money”. It is also visible on the official Paris 2024 website. “The budget for organizing the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris 2024 is financed almost entirely (97%) by private revenue, that is to say from the IOC (International Olympic Committee), partner companies, the Games ticket office or licenses. “
But this presentation is incomplete. The Olympic Games have historically operated with two separate budgets. One concerns the Organizing Committee of the olympic games. The other, the Olympic Works Delivery Company (Solideo).
However, the rate of 3% brandished by Emmanuel Macron and Tony Estanguet only concerns the budget of the Cojo. Revised in December 2020, it now stands at 3.9 billion euros, and is based on sponsorship, ticketing and a contribution from the IOC. This sum must cover expenses directly linked to the organization of the Games. It will finance, for example, the development of the Grand Palais for fencing and taekwondo events, or even the establishment of the temporary beach volleyball site at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. The Cojo’s budget will also finance the opening and closing ceremonies, but also the transport of accredited persons, whether they are athletes, journalists or employees on the sites of the Games.
The other budget therefore concerns the Solideo, which is the contracting authority for around sixty facilities, including the Olympic village and the media village. It amounts to 3.4 billion euros, of which 1.1 billion comes from the State and local authorities. If public funds are important in this envelope, it is because the Solideo is involved in the construction of equipment which will not be used for the sole purpose of the Olympic Games but will be useful to the inhabitants, well after the sporting events. The famous “heritage” of the Games for the host country.
“Talking about ‘3% of public money’ is a bit misleading”, believes sports economist Jean-Pascal Gayant, because this “is based on a basis which corresponds to a certain interpretation of what the cost of the Olympics is to the community. But it is part of the novel of the Olympics.” Distinguishing between the two budgets is however fundamental, according to Paris 2024. “The Games budget is 3.9 billion, not the 3 billion for the Solideo”, stressed to the Figaro, in July, Michaël Aloïsio, chief of staff of the president of Cojo.
“Behind each euro of the Solideo, there are no Games, there is public equipment for the inhabitants, it is to bury high voltage lines, to create a school, to clean up a site… These are infrastructures public. “Michaël Aloïsio, Chief of Staff to the President of the Paris 2024 Organizing Committee
in “Le Figaro”
Asked by the senators on the question of a possible link between the Olympic Games and the development of transport in the Ile-de-France region, Tony Estanguet stressed that Paris 2024 had not requested anything: “In 2016, when we put together our application, we stuck on the Grand Paris Express map.” And to add: “No transport line has been requested by Paris 2024. The Games have adapted to the transport map of this Ile-de-France region to set up competition venues where stations were planned.” (From 1:22 in the video below).
It has already been announced that line 16 of the future Grand Paris metro (Saint-Denis-Noisy) would be delivered two years late and would therefore not be ready for the Olympic deadline. Paris 2024 will therefore have to do without it and has set out in search of other solutions, in particular with Ile-de-France Mobilités, to be able to transport spectators to the competition venues.
Despite the efforts made by the IOC or Paris 2024 to differentiate the two budgets, the distinction is not so obvious. Michel Cadot, interministerial delegate for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, himself brought them together. “In total, we are now on these budgets (…) for the Cojo and the Solideo, by unifying the two, at less than 25% of public funding”, he had declared in front of the Senate in December 2020.
Moreover, if “the Games pay for the Games”, as the formula rehashed by official authorities, the reality is less idyllic. Over the past thirty years, the costs of the Olympic Games have each time exceeded the initially planned budget, sometimes in significant proportions. London exploded its budget by 6.1 billion euros in 2012, Rio by 23.5 billion euros in 2016 and Beijing by 29.4 billion in 2008. The Athens Games in 2004 also had a heavy impact on Greek finances, weighing down the country’s external debt from 2% to 3%.
Oxford researchers also showed in a study (in English) in 2020 that, for all the Olympic Games since 1960, the expenses were almost tripled compared to the initial budget, with an overrun of 172% on average, in real data (excluding inflation). The IOC disputed these conclusions, criticizing the authors for having chosen an approach “deeply flawed” by mixing the Cojo budget with that of other infrastructures.
“For Paris 2024, we know that there will be an overrun. Budgets are very difficult to sustain”, anticipates with franceinfo Jean-Baptiste Guégan, author specializing in the geopolitics of sport. If, for Paris, the delays accumulated on the constructions are explained in particular because of the pandemic of Covid-19, they are frequent on the sites which accompany the Olympics. “To finish the work on time, if you want to speed up, you have to pay overtime and night hours which are very expensive and increase the bill”, explains to franceinfo Matthieu Llorca, lecturer in economics at the University of Burgundy.
“Each time, the Games cost more than what had been estimated, and in the last resort, the one who pays is the taxpayer of the host country.”Jean-Pascal Gayant, sports economist
However, Paris 2024 has a strong argument: 95% of sports venues used for competition are already built or temporary. However, the exploding budgets are generally those of infrastructure under construction.