The Paris Olympics advance with two presidents on the front of the stage

TOKYO (AP) – Amid the stress of postponing and finalizing the Tokyo Olympics, the upcoming Summer Games host has moved on in relative calm with consistent leadership.

The Paris 2024 Olympics fully emerge on Sunday from their unexpected extra year in the shadows with an official handover from Tokyo.

French President Emmanuel Macron will connect remotely from his home with the organizing team from Paris to Tokyo led by its president, the three-time Olympic champion Tony Estanguet.

Two barely grizzled 43-year-old presidents, both fluent in English – a contrast to the Olympic leadership in Tokyo that has changed in a past year of busy preparations.

Macron and Estanguet began working together a few days after the French presidential election in May 2017. The new head of state was immersed in a candidacy campaign won by Paris weeks later as part of an agreement that saw Los Angeles accept the accommodation offer in 2028.

The two have since kept sport and French politics in the Olympic deal.

Sport at the Eiffel Tower and the Palace of Versailles, while revitalizing the suburbs of Saint-Denis, is part of Paris’ Olympic budget exactly 100 years after the previous one.

“We have a good relationship,” Estanguet said of Macron in an interview with the Associated Press in Tokyo, “we can call each other, we can have a direct chat.”

They have helped keep France and Paris away from the headlines that usually bother future Olympic hosts. A Wikipedia page titled “Concerns and Controversies at the 2024 Summer Olympics” awaits its first entry.

“We are incredibly lucky to have Tony,” Macron said of Estanguet, gold medalist in the canoe slalom at three of the four Olympics from 2000 to 2012.

“We cannot organize the Games in good conditions if we do not have a respected athlete as the boss of the France team,” Macron told French sports daily L’Equipe after attending the opening ceremony in Tokyo.

Estanguet’s elegant manners and elite athlete status are reminiscent of Sebastian Coe, the two-time gold medalist runner who led the London 2012 Olympics throughout the seven-year journey of victory. from the application to the rented delivery.

In a political post, Coe had acquired skills as an elected lawmaker from 1992 to 1997. He was also involved in Olympic politics early in his track career.

Estanguet came from more humble roots, in a smaller sport, later in his career. He was elected by other athletes in London to represent them as a member of the International Olympic Committee.

“It wasn’t my past,” Estanguet said of mingling and making decisions with sheikhs and princesses, millionaires and sports leaders. “But it was a fantastic way to learn things.

“I’m trying to listen. To all these people who have a fantastic experience, much better than mine, ”he said, adding,“ At some point you have to take responsibility and get into your canoe, alone. “

Estanguet describes his identity as an athlete as “ambitious, serious, also humble”.

“It’s also my profile (now) and I think that’s key in this kind of position,” he said.

Coming from a family rooted in canoeing in Pau, in the southwest of France, he claims not to be political. Still, he must be careful with the presidential election in April. Macron’s fight for his re-election takes the form of revenge against his 2017 opponent, the far-right populist Marine Le Pen.

“Of course as an athlete, again, I’ll tell you it’s easier when (you have) continuity. When you’re still in your comfort zone,” said Estanguet. “We’ll have to adapt to everything. what will happen. “

On Sunday, Estanguet and Macron will promote an Olympic host whose innovations include an opening ceremony across the city. On July 26, 2024, Paris will stage its welcome on and along the Seine.

Estanguet said he wanted people who think they know his house to say, “Wow, what a country, what a city.”


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Graham Dunbar, The Associated Press

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