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Olympics: Problems facing Paris 2024

October 27, 2023

From gentrification fears to hijab controversy to bedbugs, host city Paris still has a lot to do ahead of the 2024 Summer Olympics. With nine months to go, DW presents the most pressing issues facing the French capital.

Olympics Rings on the Trocadero Esplanade near the Eiffel Tower in Paris
The Olympics are approaching, but Paris still has a lot to doImage: Apaydin Alain/ABACA/picture alliance

With less than nine months to go until the opening ceremony at the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, the French capital is engaged in a race against time to get things ready.

DW rounds up some of the key challenges facing Paris ahead of the Games:

Bouquinistes ban

Anyone who has visited Paris will have encountered the hundreds of street vendors who ply their trade among the tourist crowds of the city center.

But authorities want to put an end to the unofficial industry, stopping people from selling on the streets ahead of the Olympics.

"We will have completely eradicated the phenomenon of street vending, fortune-telling and other delinquent activities," said Laurent Nunez, the prefect of police for Paris.

Among those businesses facing expulsion are the traditional bouquinistes, the booksellers who have been offering their wares from the wooden stalls along the banks of the Seine since the 16th century.

A book stall in Paris
Book stalls like this have long been a feature of the French capitalImage: Rachel Boßmeyer/dpa/picture alliance

Police have said the traditional stalls, some of which have stood for over a century, could pose a bomb threat, especially with the area thronged by tens of thousands of spectators for the opening ceremony which will take place on and along the river.


It's not just books and cultural trinkets that are being cleared off Parisian streets; human beings are, too.

Although authorities insist it has nothing directly to do with the Olympics next year or the Rugby World Cup, the French government has been accelerating plans to transfer homeless people living on the streets of Paris to other French cities.

Approximately half of France's 200,000 homeless people live on the streets or in shelters in Paris and the surrounding Ile-de-France region, where they stand to benefit from better job chances, access to charities and contact with family and friends.

According to government figures disclosed to CNN in September, around 1,800 homeless people, mostly migrants, have been transferred out of Paris since April 2023 to alternative locations across the country — a rate of just over 50 people per week.

But the situation on the streets has nevertheless been exacerbated by the decisions of hotels to cancel their emergency housing contracts with the government to free up space for the anticipated influx of tourists for the Olympics.

Homeless people set up tents on the street as homelessness increases due to housing crisis, in Paris, France
Homeless people have set up tents on the streets of Paris as homelessness increases due to housing crisisImage: Mohamad Alsayed/AA/picture alliance

Back in May, former Housing Minister Olivier Klein said in a parliamentary discussion that "the approach of major sporting events — firstly, to a lesser extent, the Rugby World Cup in 2023, and then the Olympic Games in 2024 — means that we have to think ahead and anticipate the situation, thanks to a policy of decluttering."

Bedbug panic

While the removal of homeless people from Paris might be controversial, the city's public spaces have also become home to another living creature that is universally unwelcome: bedbugs.

Numbers of punaises de lit have been increasing for several years in Paris, where one in 10 people have experienced infestations in the last five years, according to official figures. But this summer's annual spike is the highest yet.

And, even worse, it got traction on social media, with videos claiming to show the insects in beds and sofas at home, on public transport, and even in cinemas — although the reports remain unconfirmed.

Paris plagued with bedbugs ahead of 2024 Olympics

Nevertheless, French authorities and Olympic organizers are concerned not only about the hygienic aspect but mainly about the psychological effect of a perceived infestation and the damage to the city's image ahead of the Olympics.

What next for the Olympic Village?

One place that organizers hope will be absolutely free of bedbugs is the new Olympic Village which is nearing completion in the Paris suburb of Seine-Saint-Denis. It is set to host 22,500 Olympians and Paralympians during the Games.

The future use of Olympic villages is a key question when it comes to the social legacy of any Games, and Paris 2024 is no different. Authorities have insisted that the village will be sustainable and environmentally friendly, having been fitted with geothermal heating and cooling systems to reduce the need for air conditioning.

But community groups are still worried about issues such as air pollution (only one of four proposed new metro connections has been completed) and affordability of housing after the Games, with flats often beyond the price range of residents in the poorest region in mainland France.

Hijabs and secularism

The approaching Olympics have also seen a reemergence of the decades-old debate over the wearing of religious symbols, in particular veils, in French public life which is constitutionally secular.

While France will not allow its athletes to wear head coverings, the International Olympic Committee has said athletes will be allowed to wear a veil if they wish in the Olympic Village. Each sport's federation decides the rules for its own event.

US fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad is the most high-profile athlete to have worn the hijab at the Olympic Games. She won a bronze medal in Team Sabre at Rio 2016 wearing the head covering.

mf/mp (AFP, SID, Reuters)

This story was updated shortly after publication to better reflect the position of the IOC on head coverings.