paris.2014Paris took a major new step Monday to bidding for the 2024 Olympics when city lawmakers voted by an overwhelming majority to back a campaign.

“Now we’re off on an Olympic adventure,” said Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo. President Francois Hollande, a strong backer of a bid, is to meet International Olympic Committee (IOC) head Thomas Bach in Lausanne on Thursday.

A huge majority of the 163 lawmakers backed a Paris bid in a vote. Only a handful of Greens and extreme left wing councillors voted against.

Paris is close to entering an intense Olympic battle. The United States has entered Boston, Rome will lead an Italian bid. Germany will enter Hamburg if a city referendum gives support.  

The French Olympic committee is expected to make a final decision on Paris in June.

Cities have until September 15 to enter bids and the International Olympic Committee will make a decision in mid-2017.

Paris is hoping to capitalise on its world famous landmarks to win support.

A feasibility study proposed holding beach volleyball in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, archery on the Invalides Esplanade near the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte and fencing in the historic Grand Palais museum.

The Stade de France that held football’s 1998 World Cup final and Roland Garros, the venue for the French Open tennis, would also be used.

With so many existing venues on the draft plan, only a new swimming pool and a village for the 10,000 athletes would have to be built.

Initially, Hidalgo had doubts about a possible Olympic bid. However, she said the feasibility study, Islamist attacks in the city in January and the likely support of 1.8 billion euros ($2.0 billion) from the IOC made her change her mind.

“We have to look beyond the Olympic Games — to the thousands of houses built, improvements in transport infrastructure,” Hidalgo said.

– ‘Work to be done’ –

Tony Estanguet, a three-time Olympic canoe champion, IOC member and probable joint head of the bid campaign called Monday’s vote a “decisive step.”

“There is still work to be done,” he added however.

Hidalgo has promised that some kind of public approval will be sought in 2016, but has not yet said whether that will mean a referendum.

A poll published Sunday showed that nearly two-thirds of French people favour an Olympic bid but a small majority thought that Paris would be better off hosting the 2025 world fair.

If the French capital wins, the Games would be held on the 100th anniversary of the last time Paris staged the Olympics.

Paris was considered the frontrunner for the 2012 Olympics and has never got over the disappointment of losing to London, whose event was widely acclaimed.

Jean-Francois Lamour, a double Olympic fencing champion and sports minister when Paris lost its bid in 2005, said this was the last-chance saloon for the City of Light.

“A new defeat would mean the end of France’s ambitions to host this magical competition,” he said. – Agence France-Presse

- Advertisement -