French President Emmanuel Macron says he is concerned that some of the poorest districts of Paris are failing to see the benefits from the 2024 Olympics.
Macron’s comments, made on the latest stop of the national debate he launched in response to the “yellow vest” demonstrations, were met with criticism that the state is lagging behind in its commitment to the Games.
“At the moment, we are not meeting the goals we should have for the parts of the Paris region that are most affected by this big event,” Macron told an audience of local representatives in Evry-Courcouronnes, southern Paris, on Monday.
“It is clear that the region, and above all Seine-Saint-Denis because it will be most affected by several big new venues, is not getting a fair return.
“So we are going to work on it because for now, I’m not happy,” Macron said.
Seine-Saint-Denis, which will be at the heart of the 2024 Olympics, is blighted by the highest poverty and crime rates in France.
The northern Paris district is home to the Stade de France, the national stadium that will be revamped to serve as the hub of the Games, and a new aquatics centre will be built there.
It will also host the athletes’ village and the media complex for the Games. Both will be turned into housing after the event.
In Seine-Saint-Denis itself, there was anger at Macron’s comments.
“I think it’s a bit much for the president to come out with this. At the moment, it’s the state that is not taking care of things,” said Clement Remond, the vice president of FSGT, which organises sports activities for people from all walks of life and who was attending an event to promote the Olympics through schools.
Under Macron’s drive to reduce public spending, the government has cut grants for sports facilities in local areas and slashed the number of state-subsidised jobs, many linked to sports clubs.
In his “national debate” in Evry-Courcouronnes, Macron admitted these measures had caused “a real problem for many clubs and towns” and promised to draw up “a big plan for small clubs”.
“For the past 18 months, the government has abandoned sport and sent out some bad signals,” said Michel Savin, a member of the Senate upper house for the opposition Republicans (LR), who specialises in issues linked to sport.
The president of Seine-Saint-Denis, Stephane Troussel, was scathing about Macron’s comments.
“The heritage of the Olympics is a battle I have been fighting for months… to try to encourage the state to do more,” Troussel, of the opposition Socialist Party, said.
“I say to him (Macron), better later than never.”
Tony Estanguet, the former Olympic canoeing champion who heads the Paris 2024 organising committee, said he welcomed “the ambition that the head of state has reaffirmed”.
“We will obviously be able to go further in helping people with a state that is highly motivated at our side.”