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PARIS OLYMPIC COUNTDOWN – AND “PUNAISES”

Consider the 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics.

Those games left the city almost $2 billion in debt. There was also a string of mismanagement and corruption scandals that created a legacy of regret and remorse, along with perhaps the greatest white elephant of a stadium ever built.

It can be hard for democracies, nowadays, to run such events. Say what you will about dictators, they did make the trains run on time and kept whacko activists out of sight.

Germany’s Adolf Hitler stopped persecuting Berlin’s Jews during the 1936 Olympics. Leonid Brezhnev and the Soviets put on happy Russian faces for the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Chinese Communists shut down factories in 2008 during the Beijing Olympics so the skies would be blue. And California Governor Gavin Newsom actually cleaned up San Francisco to better welcome a visit from Red dictator Xi Jinping in 2023.

It’s harder for non-authoritarians to get things done. There’s that pesky free press. And unions! As was the case in Montreal, the 2004 Athens Olympics featured officials pushing workers to complete venue construction with only hours to spare.

This brings us to France, which—unlike Communist China, Nazi Germany, or the Peoples Republic of California—is non-authoritarian. France is less like Russia and more like Greece or Canada.

The 2024 Paris Olympics come on the centennial of the 1924 Paris Olympics—the Chariots of Fire games. (Check out that sports movie if you’ve never seen it. It won the 1982 Academy Award for Best Picture.)

But the Olympic sports world was less complicated in 1924 when 3000 athletes converged on Paris. There were only 17 sports then, five less than in 1920. In 2024 almost 11,000 athletes will compete in greater Paris in 32 sports. An anticipated half million spectators have already purchased around 10 million event tickets.

So, a lot of wine and cheese (vin et fromage) will be consumed. But more importantly, beds and accommodations will be in demand. Speaking of beds (des lits), greater Paris is presently awash with countless bed bugs—a veritable plague of mites. What sports will be most impacted by bed bug bites? We’ll soon find out.

Then there’s the inevitable labor strife. Employees of France’s national rail system have been striking, intermittently preventing the trains from running on time. Labor will certainly have some leverage come July 26. But French farmers also have newly prominent profiles, as they’ve been protesting the numerous rules and regs with which they have to comply. To first get attention, farmers peacefully turned road signs upside-down last year. Then they started blockading major cities with hay bales and tractors, greatly restricting traffic. Will the French farmers raise hell (enfer) this summer?

And stand by for whacko activists in Paris. We’ve already seen climate protests, as one organization known as “Food Response” (Riposte Alimentaire) tried to throw red soup over the Mona Lisa in January.

Inevitably the current Paris housing crisis will only get worse. Many tenants have been evicted from flats (appartements) so landlords can make windfall profits during the games.

While hotels have hired sniffer dogs to try to detect those pesky bed bugs (punaises), it’s expensive, around €30 per room. I doubt most AirBnB operators can afford to deploy such animals (chiennes). Sleepers beware!

With all these and other challenges facing our French friends (amies), President Emmanuel Macron is undoubtedly looking at how other heads of state handled hosting the Olympics. Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau kissed many female athletes and sparred with male boxers and tried to enjoy himself in 1976—leaving Montreal Mayor Jean Drapeau holding a moneyless bag when it was all over. Trudeau’s liberals would go on to lose the 1979 national election.

So, Trudeau may not be a good model for Macron. And while Hitler, Brezhnev, and the ChiComs ran relatively smooth Olympics, Macron simply cannot deploy Napoleonic authoritarianism in 21st Century France. He just can’t channel an inner Xi Jinping (Gavin Newsom) to make Paris’ trains run on time.

Or can he? If the Greeks could pull things off in 2004, one has to think the French can somehow do likewise in 2024. Regardless of how many punaises Macron has to deal with.

No prisoners! (Pas de prisonniers!)

Sports Quiz

Where will the 2028 Summer Olympic Games be held? (Answer follows)

Born Today

That is to say, sports standouts born on March 14 include 1988 Olympic bobsledder Prince Albert of Monaco (1958) and Australian Olympic field hockey legend Clover Maitland (1972).

Sports Quote

“The swimming and diving were held in part of an old moat … it was the clammiest, darkest place with frigid water.” – American diver Alice Landon on facilities at the 1920 Antwerp Summer Olympic Games  

Sports Quiz Answer

Los Angeles. (L.A. previously hosted the Summer Olympics in 1932 and 1984.)

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State Representative Mike Moffett was a Sports Management Professor for Plymouth State University and NHTI-Concord. He co-authored the award-winning “FAHIM SPEAKS: A Warrior-Actor’s Odyssey from Afghanistan to Hollywood and Back” which is available on Amazon.com. His e-mail address is mimoffett@comcast.net.

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