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In Paris, we are preparing to desert the city before the Olympics

Photo: Emmanuel Dunand Agence France-Presse Construction work near the Eiffel Tower in preparation for the Olympic Games.

“I think I’m going to do like everyone else and leave Paris. » Aïcha Idrissi had first thought of taking advantage of the festivities which will accompany the Olympic Games. But the incentives to telework and the fear of traffic jams, crowds and attacks finally got the better of her. Like half of the Parisians, she will take refuge somewhere in the French countryside, even if it means watching it all on television.

“But what horrifies me the most is this work that never ends. » For months, under the windows of his medical office on Avenue Gambetta, trucks and cranes have been making their gentle noise. Unable to open windows. All this to provide a showcase for the 15 million visitors expected in the French capital from July 26.

Aïcha is far from being alone. Half of Parisians are preparing to take flight. According to an IPSOS Digital survey, 47% of the capital’s residents will take refuge in the provinces in order to “avoid the crowds and the expected rise in prices”. But the rate could rise further, since at the time of the survey in mid-March, 19% of respondents had not yet made their decision. Some 26% of Parisians have also decided to bring forward their vacation dates so as not to be in Paris during the busiest times.

Five months before the Games, we were already recording increases of up to 50% in reservations on certain platforms offering the calm of Morbihan, the Loire Valley, Corsica or Vendée. In Le Figaro Magazine, the writer Jonathan Siksou even imagined a capital entirely deserted by its inhabitants, where it is necessary to block motorway entrances with concrete blocks and offer bonuses for “drudgery of daily life” to force Parisians to stay.

Half of Parisians are therefore preparing to disobey the exhortations of their mayor, who exclaimed: “Don’t leave this summer. Don't leave, that would be bullshit! Stay, it's going to be absolutely amazing. » Quite a contrast with this time when the mayor campaigned against the Olympics by asserting that “the Games are expensive […], I think that is no longer relevant at all”.

Cycling and teleworking

Could this exodus be the effect of the gigantic advertisements that have been plastered on the walls of metro stations for weeks ? We can read that “to save time during the Games, the important thing is to telecommute! “. And that cycling is the “preferred mode of travel”. As the president of the Île-de-France Regional Council, Valérie Pécresse, repeated: “You shouldn’t be afraid to do a little walking, it’s good for your health. » An injunction which has been rather misinterpreted by these thousands of less privileged workers who, to get to their jobs, have no choice but to crowd onto crowded metro lines, such as the famous line 13.

From there to thinking that, during the Games, Paris will be hell, there is only one step that a majority of French people have happily taken. The closer the Games get, the less interested the French say they are. Only 53% say they are a good thing, down from 61% just six months ago.

The confidence of the French in the ability to organize an opening ceremony worthy of the event is also down by 14%. This ceremony, which must take place along the Seine, over six kilometers, arouses all fears in terms of security. This week, for the first time, President Emmanuel Macron publicly confirmed that “there are plans B and even plans C”. These options include the possibility of a limited ceremony at the Trocadéro, or even in the Stade de France, as has always been done.

Itinerants sent to the region

“Orléans is not intended to host the crack hill of Paris. » The mayor of Orléans, Serge Grouard, did not spare his words on March 25. In question, the 500 homeless people who have been expelled from Paris to his city over the past year. Every three weeks, a bus unloaded between 35 and 50.

The authorities may deny any link with the Olympic Games, but the mayor of Orléans and the city's associations which host them do not budge. They denounce a real “social cleansing” in order to clear the way before the Games. For several months, 13 “temporary reception areas” have been created in the region in order to relieve congestion in Île-de-France. Evictions from camps may be regular, but according to Médecin du monde, they have increased recently in areas forming part of the capital's security perimeters, particularly on the banks of the Seine.

Numerous associations denounced the same type of “cleaning” during the Olympic Games in Atlanta and Vancouver.

Reservations down

The inconveniences of traffic and crowded transport, however, have nothing to do with those of the 3000 students who had to leave manu militari their residences requisitioned to house firefighters, caregivers and police officers. Nothing to do either with the increase in evictions of tenants at the end of their lease, which rose from 19% in 2022 to 23% in 2023, then to 28% between last September and February.

“A certain number of owners are getting rid of their tenants with the aim of renting their accommodation on platforms during the Olympic Games period,” said Ian Brossat, in charge of housing and emergency accommodation at Paris town hall. .

Among Parisians who will leave the capital, 13% will take the opportunity to rent their apartment on temporary rental platforms, where the offer has literally exploded. “With the Olympics, Airbnb has established itself as a leader in tourist accommodation in Paris,” wrote in Le Mondethe geographer Victor Piganiol. The American multinational planned to reach 130,000 ads by summer. Is this why hotels are still not stocked ? Over the past three months, their prices have fallen by 13%. According to MKG, only 64% of available rooms are reserved. Several sports federations and groups have canceled part of their reservations.

Given the plethora of supply, prices are falling everywhere, even if they still remain higher than usual. The most affected are medium or low category hotels, which are also worried about the dip that could follow the event. As if regular visitors were fleeing the capital in the face of the arrival of new tourists. A phenomenon that we also experienced in London in 2012.

Enhanced security

For experts, the attack which occurred on March 22 at the Crocus City Hall in Moscow is not unrelated to this drop in reservations. Especially since France has already been targeted by several attempted attacks by the same branch of the Islamic State jihadist group. Since then, the alert system has been raised to its maximum level.

Unsubscriptions would particularly affect Japanese and Americans, and this is a phenomenon that hoteliers are familiar with since it has been repeated each time the capital has been the victim of terrorists.

To ward off any threats, the security perimeter for the opening ceremony has been further expanded. A week before, you will have to show a QR code to venture on foot, by bike or by car in an area of ​​several square kilometers covering the Parisian banks of the Seine from east to west. This obviously includes all the major monuments, such as the Louvre and the Trocadéro, as well as the Île Saint-Louis and the Île de la Cité. Around fifteen metro stations will be closed.

Absolutely exceptional fact: not only will the Seine be closed to all navigation a week before D-Day, but during the opening ceremony, between 7 p.m. and midnight, airspace will be completely prohibited within a radius of 150 kilometers around Paris. All this on the eve of one of the biggest holiday weekends. An alert system has even been provided to notify all mobile phone owners in real time by text message in the event of danger.

Some 2,000 soldiers and police officers will come to lend a hand to the 35,000 police officers and gendarmes who will be on duty every day. This includes dog squads, motorcyclists, but also experts in documentary fraud and anti-drone warfare. There remains the immense task of security agents: 9,000 are still missing. The same thing happened in London, where the army had to be called for help at the last minute.

The Olympic flame lit

The flame which is to burn this summer during the Paris Olympic Games was lit at the site of the ancient games, in southern Greece, on Tuesday. Thousands of spectators from around the world gathered in Olympia for the event.

Mother Nature, however, did not collaborate for this official ceremony. Cloudy skies prevented the flame from being lit in the usual way. So the organizers turned to a backup flame, which had been lit Monday during the final rehearsal and kept in an ancient Greek pot.

Traditionally, an actress dressed as an ancient Greek priestess uses the sun to light a silver torch. She places the torch filled with combustibles in a parabolic mirror which concentrates the sun's rays, causing fire to erupt.

From the ancient stadium of Olympia, the torchbearers will now carry the flame more than 5,000 kilometers across Greece until the handover of power to the organizers of the Paris Games, which is to take place in Athens on April 26.

Associated Press, in Olympia

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116