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2024 Olympic fight set to go to the wire

French President Emmanuel Macron (centre) met with members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission at the Elysee Palace in Paris, on May 16, 2017 © AFP / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN

Paris, France, May 16 – The fight between Los Angeles and Paris to host the 2024 Summer Olympics is set to go the wire after the head of the IOC’s inspection team heaped lavish praise on both cities.

Patrick Baumann said neither city presented a risk, saying it came down to a choice of the 95 members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) between “two different visions” on how the Summer Games be held.

Baumann also refused to be drawn on whether the confirmed presence at the decisive vote in Lima on September 13 of newly-installed French President Emmanuel Macron could hand Paris the advantage should US counterpart Donald Trump not be present for Los Angeles.

Baumann did say, however, that Macron’s presence would mean the Paris bid enjoys “visual and tangible” support from both the government and country.

“We’re fortunate that we have two city candidates who do not present major risks that we’ve been able to highlight to host the Olympic Games,” Baumann added at his team’s closing press conference in Paris, which last hosted the Olympics in 1924, Los Angeles in 1984.

Tony Estanguet — the co-president of the Paris bid for the 2024 Olympics — smiles during press conference at the end of the IOC Evaluation Commission session in Paris, on May 16, 2017 © AFP / FRANCK FIFE

“Both cities have the Olympic tradition, both cities have the venues we need, both cities have very dedicated and motivated teams that want to lead that.”

But Baumann added: “Both cities are different. These two cities have the capacity to organise the Games.

“But these cities, because they’re in different countries with different cultures, have differing visions. It’s one of the key elements. IOC members will have to choose between one vision or the other.”

– Macron confirmed in Lima –

Baumann insisted that it did not matter whether the respective delegations were “made up of X or Y” when asked about Trump, but at the same time praised his team’s meeting with Macron, saying it showed “strong, solid support” from all strata of French public authorities.

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Los Angeles bid chairman Casey Wasserman has admitted they are cautious about asking Trump to Lima, recounting the “very bad” stories from the 2009 vote in Copenhagen when some IOC members were said to be furious to be kept waiting outside the venue whilst then-US president Barack Obama’s security detail swept the building having flown in to give his support to Chicago. It was said to have cost Chicago votes.

Paris are battling with Los Angeles for the right to host the 2024 Summer Olympics © AFP / FRANCK FIFE

“Emmanuel Macron told Patrick Baumann that he would definitely be in Lausanne for the IOC’s debriefing and also in Lima on September 13,” said Paris bid team member Guy Drut, France’s 110m hurdle champion at the 1976 Games.

Macron’s commitment to securing the Olympics was underlined by his one-hour meeting with the IOC taking place just two days after his inauguration as France’s youngest president at 39 years of age since Napoleon.

“This is evidence of commitment. It is not just a word, there is a unity up to the highest level of the state,” suggested Paris 2024 co-president Bernard Lapasset, former head of rugby union’s governing body the IRB, now World Rugby.

“This could help our candidacy for sure – the new president, who receives the commission just two days after his nomination, and who is the same age as our co-president Tony Estanguet.”

Macron is a strong supporter of the Paris bid to host the Olympics for the first time in a century and even before Sunday’s investiture he had telephoned Olympic chief Thomas Bach to confirm his support.

On Monday, he told Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo the bid stimulated the kind of national optimism he hopes to generate during his mandate.

View of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum as the IOC Evaluation Commission inspects facilities before a September vote for the 2024 Summer Olympics © AFP / FREDERIC J. BROWN

“I’m right with you on your venture for the Olympics, Paralympics and the 2024 objective,” he declared.

Baumann, whose team publish their report in Lausanne on July 5, said that the “marriage between the Games and Paris was absolutely obvious”.

Ever the diplomat, the Swiss head of the world basketball federation added: “The bid team responded to all our questions — all our remarks, as was the case in Los Angeles last week.”

The two bid cities will next be in action when they are called up to present their candidacies to the wider IOC on July 11-12 before decamping to Lima for the decisive vote.

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