Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Philippe Rio: “We must affirm the right to sport in the same way as the right to education, housing, health or work”

Are the 2024 Paris Olympics a lever for “better living” in Île-de-France?

Philip Rio Not until now. Because most cities labeled Terre de Jeux 2024 make sense to host a planetary event without taking the opportunity to “build a nation” through sports. However, this different approach would allow us to use the Games as a diplomatic and political event aimed at repairing French rifts through sport. Sport is a vector of national reconciliation, a remarkable integration machine. With 17 million members, it is even the leading party in France!

Have the Olympic cities, of which you were one of the initiators, been established to put sport back at the heart of government policy?

Philip Rio They were born in the continuation of the appeal of the suburbs of 2017, which aimed to protect the working-class neighborhoods from austerity. Four years later, in October 2021, a collective of elected officials – Catherine Arenou, several right-wing mayors (DVD) of Chanteloup-les-Vignes (Yvelines), Guillaume Delbar, DVD mayor of Roubaix (North), Benoît Jimenez, centrist mayor from Garges-lès-Gonesse (Val-d’Oise), Gilles Leproust, PCF mayor of Allonnes (Sarthe) and myself – organized the National Council of Solutions (CNS) to share ideas from the field, noting noted above” working no. A toolbox of community experiments to change the lives of residents of working-class neighborhoods. And continue to put pressure on the executive. First measure of the CNS: the creation, in collaboration with the French Judo Federation, of 100 solidarity associations throughout France, in vacant spaces that have been vacated by social landlords. As the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris approach, our collective has launched the concept of “Olympic Cities” to develop sports practice among young people in deprived areas. The Olympics should be a real springboard for elected officials and benefit working-class neighbourhoods.

You even speak of a sports field project…

Philip Rio In France we have master plans for everything, but no tool to plan the sports strategy of an area. However, sport can be an essential lever for spatial planning, from district to region. Especially in the working-class towns of Île-de-France where we have an infrastructure shortage. Paradoxically, we see the greatest shortcoming in Seine-Saint-Denis, the youngest region of France. The Olympics should provide the opportunity to have and catch up with a structuring national sports project. Sport should no longer be the fifth wheel of our government policy.

What is the concept of “Olympic cities” based on?

Philip Rio The “Olympic cities” are designed on the model of educational cities, one of the rare measures of the Borloo plan adopted by the government. We want to bring the national government, the local authorities and associations around the same table. Specifically, this project proposes a common framework and objectives for all sports actors around five main axes: the training of actors and athletes-to-be, the deployment of sports equipment, inclusion through sport, strengthening sports in and around school, and building a new economic model for local sport.

You even talk about the “right to sport”…

Philip Rio France must equip itself with a vigorous movement of sporting exception, as there is the French cultural exception. We must collectively reaffirm the right to sport, such as the right to education, work, housing, health… Sport is a means of inclusion that fights against social, gender and territorial discrimination. However, the right to sport implies equipment and resources. And if our working-class neighborhoods are major suppliers of top athletes, they have on average a third less sports equipment than the rest of the territory. As a logical consequence of this, the sports license rate is 11%, compared to 34% for the rest of the country. No top sport without amateur sport. One cannot exist without the other. The budget of 200 million euros for 5,000 new infrastructures, announced by Emmanuel Macron under the impetus of Paris 2024, is therefore not at the level of needs and shortcomings.

What do you mean by “sports continuum”?

Philip Rio In our Olympic city, the cities are not just gym and swimming pool rental companies! They have strengthened ties with national education to create a sports continuum stretching from school to extracurricular activities, even in association clubs. The city is responsible for taking on this fluid governance for young people. Again, sport is more than sport, especially in popular cities. It can change life paths. On a field we learn brotherhood, self confidence, respect, humility, solidarity… Sport is a great vector of social bonds, education, training and integration. Many clubs have understood their potential role of mediating with the school and families and are investing in social activities and help with homework. In our cities, the educational issue is increasingly central to the project of sports clubs, implying an increase in sports supervision skills.

Is sport a way to fight poverty?

Philip Rio Secure ! In Grigny, 50% of the population lives below the poverty line. So when the city calibrates the cost of a license between 0 and 50 euros, it offers families the opportunity to practice one or more sports, get out of the house, interact with the collective, learn. Sport is an essential addition to the education of children and citizens. It is also a tool for better living together. So we are also going to organize our Games! Starting this summer, the Youth Olympic Games will take place in working-class neighborhoods in collaboration with ten sports federations.

Interview conducted by Marie-Stéphane Guy


Download in PDF the 24 pages of our special supplement Olympic Games 2024 from Humanity Magazine.


What is the Terre de Jeux label?

Paris 2024 has hammered it home: these Games will be those of all of France. The promise has come true with the Terre de Jeux 2024 label, a unique system in Olympic history that promotes local authorities and structures of the sports movement working towards a more developed and inclusive sport. The label unites a community of actors who believe that sport changes lives. More than 2,800 communities and structures are certified and share their experiences, projects and actions in favor of sport.