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A Worrywart’s Guide to the 2024 Paris Olympics

Six months from today, the official Olympic flame will reach Paris during the opening ceremony of the Summer Games. Its 68-day relay to get there will start, as is tradition, in Olympia, Greece, where it will be lit “by the sun’s rays.” It is a little known fact, however, that the fuel that sustains the fire during its long journey—and throughout the following fortnight—is primarily derived from human anxiety.

How else would one explain the most common theme of pre-Olympic periods, when athletes fight for roster spots while organizers and potential visitors alike think about everything that could go wrong? As Slate wrote ahead of the pandemic-delayed 2021 games, “Bad vibes are more or less the norm in the lead-up to the Olympics.”

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Construction challenges, safety concerns, human rights violations, environmental issues—they all seem to respond to the same clarion call that brings our planet’s top competitors together. 2024 will be no different. As organizers prepare for a third games in four years (following 2021 in Tokyo and 2022 in Beijing), a number of things have the potential to go awry. But no sweat! Almost always, the games manage to go on. So as Paris awaits, what are the main issues this time?

Will Paris be ready for the Olympics?

Unlike several recent host cities, Paris has boasted frugality rather than opulence in preparing venues, many of which were already built and operational. In the name of sustainability, organizers are even making fewer torches for the pre-games relay. Still, at least three construction sites are running behind schedule. A sprint to the finish feels unavoidable.

Environmental concerns have also complicated matters, particularly in Tahiti, where preparation for surfing competition has reportedly damaged the local reef. In Paris, planners are prepping for what could be the hottest Olympics since the 1950s (Tokyo set the mark in 2021). Rather than invest in energy-hungry AC units, organizers have called for a special water-cooling system under the Athletes Village, one modeled off the Louvre Museum’s system. Meanwhile, some residents remain skeptical about Paris’ promise to clean up the Seine River to the point where portions of it could be used as public swimming pools going forward.

One project that won’t be completed in six months’ time is the Notre Dame Cathedral’s restoration. COVID delays and safety issues have pushed its reopening date back to December.

Will the Paris Olympics go smoothly?

International affairs are already creating tension within the Olympic movement. Russian athletes remain in a state of limbo, though some appear set to compete as neutral entrants. The country, along with Syria, argued against the United Nations adopting a traditional truce during the games. Israel was among the proposal’s backers, and its Olympic Committee head recently promised that its delegation would participate in Paris’ open air ceremony along the Seine despite potential security risks.

Past Olympics have been marred by violence before or during the competition, while other events have narrowly avoided close calls. Organized boycotts have generally faded into Olympic history, but given the global stage, individual protests and political statements from athletes and outsiders alike seem certain.

Local division could also cause issues. Last week, hundreds of police officers across the country demanded extra pay during the event. “The Olympics will be without us,” some reportedly chanted. Staffing shortages in hospitals and vital transit roles could also be exacerbated in July and August, when French citizens are known to take extended vacations. Protests over the treatment of migrants and those without homes have also popped up as the city prepares to host visitors.

Is there anything else to be worried about?

I’ll spare you an update on the bedbug panic. Oh, and, if you were planning on bringing edibles to deal with the stress, keep in mind that cannabis products are illegal in France. C’est la vie.

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