OLYMPIC COUNTDOWN. A countdown clock for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games stands in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France in this photo taken on April 16, 2024. The Olympic Games will take place from July 26 to Aug. 11. (Xinhua/Gao Jing)

PARIS – With the Olympic flame lit on Tuesday in ancient Olympia, the countdown to the Paris Olympic Games hit the 100-day mark, ushering in a period of intense preparation and growing expectations.

This year marks a century since Paris last hosted the Olympics, positioning it to become the second city after London to have hosted the Games three times. The historical and current connections are palpable, making the city a living legacy of the Olympics.

“Games Wide Open” is the promise made by Paris – with the opening ceremony on the Seine, famous landmarks transformed into venues, and public-accessible Olympic marathon routes, the naturally romantic French are filling the world with anticipation.

Amid these high expectations, the organizing committee is tackling numerous challenges, primarily focusing on security and transportation logistics.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Tony Estanguet, head of the Paris Organizing Committee, have openly addressed these challenges, committing to overcoming them in time for the Games.

A century of Olympic legacy

For this year’s Olympics, the Yves-du-Manoir Stadium in Paris’ northwest suburbs will host the field hockey events.

This venue is steeped in Olympic history; it was the central stage for the 1924 Olympics, hosting the opening ceremony and various competitions, including athletics, football, gymnastics, and some equestrian events.

Over the past century, several local football and rugby clubs have used this stadium as their home. Now, having been redesigned and renovated, it once again stands as a modern sports arena capable of accommodating 15,000 spectators during the Olympics, up from its regular capacity of 14,000.

Several venues have hosted two Olympic events, but extending this span to a century is a romantic distinction unique to Paris and a testament to the city’s long-standing Olympic tradition.

Paris is undeniably a city of fashion, culture, and art, but as the birthplace of Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympics, it is equally fitting to call it a city of sports.

In 1892, Coubertin gave a speech at the Sorbonne University of Paris, where he first publicly proposed the revival of the Olympics. On June 23, 1894, the International Olympic Committee was officially established in the same auditorium, marking the beginning of the modern Olympic movement.

The second modern Olympic Games in 1900, hosted in Paris alongside the World’s Fair, provided a global stage for the fledgling Olympics, blending it with the exposition’s broader cultural festivities. Notably, the Grand Palais, constructed for the 1900 World’s Fair and initially serving as an exhibition hall rather than a royal residence, will host fencing and taekwondo competitions this year.

Reflecting on this rich history, Paris stands out not only as a recurring Olympic host but also as a city where the past and present dialogues enrich the ongoing Olympic legacy. This year, as the city prepares to add another chapter to its Olympic story, it celebrates both its historical significance and its current role on the global sports stage.

Integrating Olympic beauty into the city

Last month, the Paris Organizing Committee officially released the official poster for this year’s Games. The merchandise, once launched, nearly sold out instantly, becoming the “most popular Paris Olympic item” to date.

The official poster, crafted by renowned French designer Ugo Gattoni after 2,000 hours of dedicated work, features a vibrant and detailed depiction of Paris’s transformation into a giant urban stadium, where Paris’s iconic landmarks are rearranged and recombined.

The Eiffel Tower pierces through the middle of the Stade de France, with the Seine River, Arc de Triomphe, Place de la Concorde, and other symbols of Paris and France scattered around, along with all the sports disciplines of the Olympics and Paralympics.

This is the most direct and vivid representation of the vision for the Paris Olympics – a sports carnival integrated into the city.

The ambitious plan includes hosting the opening ceremony on the Seine on July 26, where athletes will embark on a scenic 6-km. journey from Austerlitz Bridge to Trocadero Square, facing the Eiffel Tower.

The ceremony is set to be a floating spectacle, celebrating Parisian heritage while marking the commencement of the Games.

Furthermore, iconic venues, such as the Palace of Versailles and the Invalides, are being transformed into temporary sports facilities, broadening the Olympic experience to include renowned historical sites across Paris.

Renovation work is in full swing, with spectator stands for beach volleyball being erected under the Eiffel Tower and the urban sports park on Place de la Concorde taking shape.

“Given that we’re in the world’s most beautiful city, we aimed to weave the Olympic spirit into the very fabric of Paris from the very beginning,” claimed Estanguet.

Steady advancing and not afraid of challenges

Since the beginning of 2024, preparations for the Paris Olympics have accelerated.

The Olympic Village, Arena Porte de la Chapelle, and the Aquatics Center have been completed, with recent events such as an Olympic badminton test event receiving accolades from participants for the facilities’ excellence.

The volunteer program is nearly finalized, with approximately 45,000 individuals chosen from about 300,000 applicants, including a 20 percent contingent from abroad, all set to don uniforms provided by Decathlon during the Games.

The excitement further escalated with the release of the official Olympic poster and stamps, triggering a buying spree among the public.

The lighting of the Olympic flame and the commencement of the torch relay signify the final stretch of the pre-Games preparations.

“My daily schedule is packed, and now I am like a checklist filled with tasks to complete, ticking the boxes one by one and then swiftly moving on to the next,” Estanguet described his recent state.

This week, French President Macron once again mentioned the most pressing concerns of security and transportation in an interview. He reassured the public that the security level, especially for the opening ceremony, would be of the highest level.

“If you ask where the safest place in France will be that day, I would say it is right at the opening ceremony,” Macron stated.

However, having confidence in being fully prepared does not mean being arrogant enough to ignore all risks. Macron also candidly told the public that if the security risks are too high at the time, changing the location of the opening ceremony remains a possibility.

The countdown clock under the Eiffel Tower has already pointed to 100 days. Soon, the Olympic rings will also be installed on the tower.

“Only 100 days left, and we are immensely excited, but we need to be even more cautious. There’s still a lot of work to do, but facing challenges is normal for such a significant comprehensive sports event. What we need to do is face these challenges and find ways to solve them,” Estanguet said.

The Olympic Games will take place from July 26 to Aug. 11. (Xinhua)