Paris 2024 is a bet on Europe

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Julian Jappert [Julian Jappert]

On Tuesday 6 June, a delegation for the Paris bid for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be received by the European Parliament in its assembly. It is a big opportunity for Paris, and also for the European Union, writes Julian Jappert.

Julian Jappert is director of the think tank Sport and Citizenship.

The chorus has been heard many times: lack of confidence, distance from the regions, technocrats. The words associated with Europe have gradually become tinged with accusatory overtones. Threats to EU cohesion combined with a sense of institutional paralysis in its ability to deal with crises (social, economic or to do with migration) have helped to install a new and uncomfortable reality in Europe, where its citizens feel threatened.

Every area is open to criticism, including sport. Europe is criticised for blurring identities, and these are often expressed through sport. It is also well-known that despite its power to discuss and its growing interest in questions concerning sport, the European Union does not have the power to intervene in the final attribution of the Olympics.

Shared values and ideas?

Paris 2024 is perfectly in line with the values defended by the European Union and its strategic objectives. Although sport is a marginal competence for Europe, it makes an important contribution to economic development through its economic, social and human impact. Paris has positioned itself in favour of an event where the priorities are environmental excellence and a lasting legacy. These are two aspects that the European Union has been determined to evoke on numerous occasions: making bidders more responsible and developing the civic potential of major international sporting events. With this in mind, using the language of Brussels, Paris 2024 is an example of good practice.

A strong differentiating factor

It may not please the Eurosceptics, but the European Union still counts for a lot on the international diplomatic scene. Now that the other European bids (Hamburg, Rome and Budapest) have been withdrawn, Paris has become the European leader against the American bid from Los Angeles, with a secondary mission of bringing the Olympics back to the continent of Europe.

Apart from the technical side of presenting the French bid, it is important to be convincing in the ideas conveyed and in speeches, and to win hearts. Paris 2024 realises that it can count on the European Union and its popular representation in helping to activate this soft patriotism or soft power through sport. The French bid intends to put sport at the service of society. That is also the Sport and Citizenship think tank’s creed, as we work with the Paris 2024 Bid Committee to give this project a European dimension.

On 23 May Laura Flessel and Bernard Lapasset gained the support of eight European Sports Ministers in Brussels. For the first time in history, an Olympic bid delegation will be received by the European Parliament on 6 June. This is an unprecedented and strategic event – with the ultimate aim of being “united in diversity”, and adversity.

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