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IOC’s Christophe Dubi reflects on Paris 2024 economic report, looks at future Olympics

International Olympic Committee Executive Director Christophe Dubi spoke with OlympicTalk about the Paris 2024 economic impact report published May 14, which estimated the Games will generate at least $7.2 billion in net economic benefits in the Paris region, plus other matters regarding future Olympic Games.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

OlympicTalk: In your opinion, what were the one or two highlights from the economic impact report?

Dubi: The highlight is that the Olympics is a great business. You host the Games for many reasons. But you also host the Games because it’s great business, and by signing the host contract seven years before the Games, you generate an extra 7 to 11 billion euro of additional economic activity. This means a lot, because it means that you’ve been able to catalyze a number of projects. You’ve been able to think about the social development in the tougher areas. You’ve been able to envision the legacy and how the Games can transform. But then you look at it from an economic standpoint, and you say, on top of everything else, it’s a great business. That, for me, was the best possible read.

Also put in parallel another number that came out about the same time as the economic report: the fiscal revenues generated from this extra economic impact, and they estimate between 5 to 5.3 billion euro. This is how it all comes together, because if you take the investment of the French authorities, plus the cost of a number of services, such as security, transport and others, once you have generated the 5.3 billion euro, you look at your investment and the services, you’re still black in accounting terms, and I really liked that.

OlympicTalk: You’ve mentioned this being the first Olympics aligned with Olympic Agenda 2020 reforms in organizing and putting on the Games. Can you tell me specifically how Agenda 2020 is implemented into the findings of this economic report?

Dubi: In Agenda 2020, you had a number of strands of activities. One was to simplify the host candidature and make it a partnership process between the IOC and the future organizing committees. We said the Games have to adapt to the city and region. It meant that Paris was able to make the best choice according to their conditions. It meant, yes, hosting shooting in Chateauroux and preliminaries of basketball and finals of handball in Lille, and that’s OK. You have much more flexibility in the implementation of the host contract because we (the IOC) impose far less. You design the solutions the way you want to. It means that you have far more flexibility, and for that matter of Paris, designing something that makes sense from a long-term perspective, but also makes sense from an economic standpoint. Not building but using existing or temporary solutions means less investment.

By using public transportation rather than a full dedicated fleet of buses and cars, it means reductions of costs of one of the key items. Using the grid rather than generators for many of the venues means cost of energy goes down and means that the ecological impact is reduced. So all of these things that were made possible by the vision at the time, in the implementation vision through Agenda 2020, in the implementation by the organizing committee and the smart solutions they could find, you generate exactly this. Less impact from the environment standpoint. A socially fabulous impact — creation of jobs, creation of venues, an athletes’ village where it matters and 30 minutes of physical activity in schools per day.

OlympicTalk: I remember IOC President Thomas Bach said Tokyo was the best-ever prepared city to host an Olympics. Now that we’re two months out from Paris, how is the organization looking?

Dubi: Of course, the last one in Tokyo was in a COVID context, and then you had Rio (in 2016), which were really complicated. I would say we are in a comparable situation to London (in 2012) with the same volume of issues to be dealt with. Nothing of significance at this point in time. All the venues are on time, but a lot of details still in the plan. Obviously, every day you would have your daily issues, but nothing of significance.

So I don’t feel, where I’m sitting, stress in the organizing team, but rather the pressure of expectations. Paris is a good context to have that level of expectation because of everything that has happened in the last two years. Because of the plan of Paris, which is incredibly exciting. From the Opening Ceremony (on the Seine River), the Champions Park (celebration area at the foot of the Eiffel Tower), the fact that all the urban sports are in Paris center. The expectations are amazingly high, but also because of the political tensions, and this is where, by the way, the whole international community meets, this summer in Paris, everyone. So the level of everyone that wants to be in Paris from politicians, stars, cinema, music, everywhere, Paris is an incredible magnet. So there is a lot of pressure. But the organizing team can sustain that pressure because at the same time we don’t have big problems in the organization. I prefer to be in that situation than having the pressure to resolve big problems. Pressure of expectations is not the same as pressure to resolve problems. This is really where we are similar to London, but I’d say that the level all of us expecting these Games is probably even bigger than London.

OlympicTalk: Looking ahead, I don’t know how much time you’re spending on Milano-Cortina 2026 at the moment, but how are things progressing there?

Dubi: So first, what is the amount of work? It’s big as well. This is why we have different teams looking at different editions of the Games, but let me tell you that those focusing on Milano-Cortina, less than two years away with the amount of work to be completed, including on the Olympic villages, one ice rink in Milano, a hockey one south of Milano, but also the bobsled and luge track that started very late, they are huge building blocks that we have to follow very closely. So that that’s our number one task. At the same time, a great advantage of Milano-Cortina is they have, especially in the mountains, great capabilities that they demonstrate every year. They organize the best World Cups and World Championships. So you have the pressure of the building on one side, but you have this knowledge and expertise in delivering events.

OlympicTalk: And then Los Angeles 2028. They probably have the most time to prepare for an Olympics of any host given the double award of 2024 and 2028 that happened in 2017. How are the LA Games looking unique from the early organization?

Dubi: The organization is unique in the sense that you have it all to start with (existing venues). It’s not so much thinking venues or how to operate these venues. It’s using the great capabilities that the U.S. sport and entertainment market LA can offer and how to make it really special for the Games. LA can offer you the most dynamic of the sports and entertainment market, most dynamic of the tech market. You can already envisage what it can look like at the time of the Games.

OlympicTalk: The French Alps and Salt Lake City are targeted to host the Winter Games in 2030 and 2034, with an IOC decision expected this summer. What is the latest on those projects?

Dubi: The IOC Future Host Commission will present two detailed reports to the IOC Executive Board in a matter of days. We just visited, and how refreshing it was that two of our former hosts — Albertville in 1992 and Salt Lake City in 2002 — are still, how can I say, tattooed with the Games. You still find the Games energy rings everywhere.