PARIS — (AP) — The world’s best Paralympic athletes marching down France’s most famous boulevard with their prosthetics, mobility chairs and stories of adversity, head into a grand celebration of their prowess and sports on the square in Paris where the French revolutionaries of 1789 severed heads.
Paris organizers announced their plans on Thursday for the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games, an event with 4,400 athletes who will follow the first post-COVID-19 pandemic Olympics in less than two years.
What catches the eye is the venue itself: initially, the Paralympic opening show will be freed from the traditional stadium setting and will instead take place outdoors in the heart of the French capital, on the Boulevard des Champs-Elysées and the largest square in the city, Place de la Concorde.
The once blood-soaked square, where King Louis XVI, his queen, Marie Antoinette, and other nobles were guillotined during the French Revolution that laid the first foundations of modern France, stands as an eye-catching focal point Paris Games.
Set like a jewel between the Tuileries Gardens, the Seine and the majestic Hôtel de Crillon, the square will be converted into an arena for the new Olympic sport of breakdance, 3-on-3 basketball, BMX cycling and skateboarding, returning to the program after his Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games delayed by the pandemic in 2021.
Only 17 days after July-August 26. 11 Olympic Games in Paris, the Place de la Concorde will then be at the center of the unprecedented opening ceremony of August 28-Sept. 8 Paralympics.
International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons predicted a ceremony that will be “a thing of beauty and a once-in-a-lifetime event that will go down in all our stories”.
“This festival of inclusion begins with the truly unique experience of thousands of Paralympians marching down the world’s most famous avenue. What an incredible thrill it’s going to be to enter the Champs-Elysées and then walk down to Place de la Concorde, while being framed by the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre,” he said in remarks. broadcast by the organizers of 2024.
Organizers said space will be made at the ceremony for 65,000 people – the equivalent of the crowd in a large Olympic stadium.
The president of the French Paralympic and Sporting Committee, Marie-Amélie Le Fur, said going outside the stadium “is a revolution”.
“Going down the Champs-Elysées to Place de la Concorde and sharing this with nearly 65,000 people, in the heart of the capital, will be a historic moment,” she said. “This is unheard of.”
About 30,000 people present will be able to attend the ceremony free of charge.
The choice of venue is part of a massive effort by Paris organizers to free the Olympic and Paralympic Games from the shackles of traditional sporting venues and transform the French capital into a giant playground for sport during the Games, complete with the Eiffel Tower , the Grand Palace and other monuments. used as competition venues.
The concept – encapsulated in the official slogan, “Games Wide Open” – is not without risk. The use of urban sites as venues poses security, transportation and logistical challenges.
The Olympic opening ceremony will also break with tradition by taking to the waters of the Seine instead of taking place in a stadium.
Boats will parade the 10,500 athletes on the waterway from east to west. Organizers anticipate at least 600,000 spectators, most of them ticketless and watching for free, and bill it as the biggest opening ceremony in Olympic history.
The Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Olympic and Paralympic Games will be directed by award-winning French director Thomas Joly.
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