PARIS — French President Francois Hollande treated IOC President Thomas Bach with a special gift: an Olympic flag from the 1924 Olympic games that were held in Paris.
In addition to the vintage present, Hollande also had a special message for Bach: “This Olympic flag dates back to nearly a century. It will be a century old when Paris will host the Games in 2024.”
Paris, which has not hosted the Olympics since those Games, is competing against Budapest, Rome and Los Angeles. The International Olympic Committee will choose the host city in September.
After meeting with French athletes and Paris bid leaders during a two-day visit in the French capital, Bach met Hollande at the Elysee Palace on Sunday to discuss the bid.
He told Hollande he was “impressed” by the Paris dossier and the strong support the bid is enjoying.
“The Paris bid is a very, very strong bid because of the unity and the large support it is sparking off,” Bach said. “Personally, I’m very impressed by the unity among both the sporting and political worlds.”
Bach insisted the strong support among the general population was a key asset to the Paris bid.
“This has not always been the case with the previous French bids,” he said.
Paris failed in bids for the 1992, 2008, and 2012 Games and France also decided not to bid for 2020 after Annecy was humiliated in the race for the 2018 Winter Games.
This time, bid officials have made sure their project is backed by the government, the Paris city hall, and enjoys a strong level of public support.
The Paris bid is also in line with the IOC’s Agenda 2020, a set of recommendations encouraging bidding cities to promote maximizing the use of existing facilities and infrastructure to save money.
More than 70 percent of the proposed venues in the Paris bid are existing facilities, with a further 25 percent being temporary structures. The main construction requirements for the bid include an aquatics center close to the Stade de France, a new indoor arena in the southern Bercy neighborhood, the Olympic village and media center. Paris officials are also promising there won’t be any white elephants and that 100 percent of the venues will have a real legacy.
“Your project is excellent and is in line with the Agenda 2020,” said Bach.
Despite the security threats in France, Hollande repeated that Paris has the experience needed to organize and protect major events if it gets the Games, citing the soccer European Championships France hosted last summer as an example.
More than 200 people have died in France in the last 20 months in several terror attacks.
“I have no idea how the world will look like in 2024, but it will necessarily be dangerous,” Hollande said. “There is not a single country, or capital, that might think it will be immune. We have been confronted by this reality for a while, but we have what it takes to protect an event like the 2024 Olympics.”
Bach, who attended a soccer game between refugees and French athletes at the end of his visit, said security is a top priority for the IOC.
“We have to face challenges, but these challenges are not restricted to one particular city, or to one particular country,” he said. “Unfortunately, we are living in a world where all big events and normal citizens have to live with this threat of terrorism. This is true for every country in the world. What is important is to see how countries are dealing with this challenge. And France has shown with the recent organization of the Euro (European Championship) that they can deal with security challenges.”
Next week, Bach is expected to meet Italian officials, who still hope the Rome bid can be revived despite opposition from the city council, which voted in favor of scrapping the bid after Mayor Virginia Raggi rejected the candidacy.