Can Paris 2024’s Green Ambitions Stick the Landing?
A recent look at the infrastructure revamps planned around the Paris 2024 Summer Olympic Games begs the question: Will the myriad improvements get off the ground in time or fall short of expectations? Destruction of Tahiti’s coral reefs for the Games’ two-day surfing competition, meanwhile, is calling the organizers’ commitment to sustainability into question.
Los Angeles 2028, take note: time flies when you hold infrastructure overhauls to a hard deadline. The Paris 2024 Summer Olympics are no longer on the distant horizon, looming just a few federal holidays away. Since 2016, Mayor Anne Hidalgo has led a somewhat utopian campaign, titled Réinventer Paris, for fewer cars and more greenery and bicycling infrastructure to improve the French capital’s quality of life and carbon footprint. The city’s ambitions include reversing pollution in the Seine, implementing “urban forests,” and realizing mayoral advisor Carlos Moreno’s concept of 15-minute cities, in which all daily necessities are within a 15-minute walk or bike ride from home.
The list goes on. Unlike the structural decay of Olympics past, the Paris 2024 Athletes’ Village, designed by architect Dominique Perrault, will be swiftly converted to housing and a standalone neighborhood—a 15-minute city of its own—once the Games wrap up. Its construction must adhere to a carbon emissions budget; its urban planning is done with climate change mitigation in mind. (Think natural cooling, drinking water in public spaces, as well as climate-resistant surfaces and landscaping). With only seven months between now and the opening ceremony, the blissful Paris of the future ought to come soon. In eight weeks, on March 1, a completed Village must be presented to Paris 2024, but recent photos show it to be very much still under construction.
On the other side of the world, in Tahiti, Paris 2024’s commitment to sustainability and ecological resilience is being fiercely debated. Over objections from both locals and the global surfing community, the Olympics’ organizers selected the island’s legendary big wave break, Teahupo’o, to host the Games’ two-day surf competition. The problem? Instead of using an existing observation tower to judge and film the competition, organizers forged ahead with a plan to create a new, larger tower by drilling into the underlying coral reef. Throughout December, @saveteahupoo documented the damage and destruction inflicted by the construction barges, and building is currently paused.
Professional surfer and Olympian Kanoa Igarashi spoke out against the impact of Paris 2024’s actions. “After seeing yesterday’s video, I’ve realized how much damage this ‘new tower’ is causing. I trusted that they would consider the local environment more. But I guess I was wrong,” he said. “All for a two-day event and not much future benefits for the local community. The Olympics is meant to leave the community a better place than before the games, but this action is not showing that in my opinion. I hope we can all find a solution.”