PARIS — IOC evaluation commission chairman Patrick Baumann praised Paris’ vision for the Olympics as he wrapped up a three-day visit to the French capital on Tuesday.
Baumann, however, stopped short of giving hints on whether the City of Lights will host the games in 2024, or four years later.
As the International Olympic Committee currently assesses the possibility of awarding Paris and Los Angeles the next two Olympics in September, Baumann said he was impressed by the sense of history at the heart of the French bid.
Many downtown landmarks would be used if Paris wins the games. The road cycling races would finish at the Arc de Triomphe, taekwondo and fencing competition would be staged inside the Grand Palais, equestrian next to the Versailles Castle, and beach volleyball at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.
"The Paris bid can put sport in the middle of that history," Baumann said at a news conference. "And there is also the Olympic history, with the baron Pierre de Coubertin, this is where modern Olympics were born. There is a very strong link between Paris’ history, the Olympics history and their will to host the games again after those of 1924."
The IOC was founded in Paris in 1894 by French Baron Pierre de Coubertin, and the French capital hosted the Olympics in 1900 and 1924. Paris failed in bids for the 1992, 2008, and 2012 Games.
After three cities pulled out of the Olympic race, Los Angeles and Paris are the only two bidders left for the 2024 Games, which will be awarded in September at a meeting of Olympic leaders in Peru.
But the IOC has four vice-presidents looking into the prospect of awarding the 2024 and 2028 Games at the same time to ensure a "win-win" scenario. A decision on the issue is likely to be made before a key meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, in July when Paris and Los Angeles will have another opportunity to present their bids to IOC members after they receive the evaluation commission report.
The host city election will take place on Sept. 13 in Lima, Peru.
Paris has made clear it is only interested in hosting the 2024 edition, a message hammered home once again by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo on Tuesday.
"I’m not even thinking that we won’t get 2024," Hidalgo told The Associated Press when asked about the future of the bid if Paris loses.
Baumann, whose team toured the Los Angeles venues last week, said both bids have excellent technical dossiers, but two different visions.
"We have two candidatures that do not present major risks," he said. "Both cities have an Olympic tradition, venues ready to use and dedicated teams. They have a totally different historic and cultural background. The two cities have a different vision and IOC members will have to decide between the two."
Baumann also brushed off concerns about the costs of the Paris bid, whose infrastructure budget has been estimated at 3 billion euros ($3.3 billion), with operational costs of 3.2 billion euros. But Paris still needs to build an aquatics centre close to the Stade de France, a media centre and the Olympic Village.
"We are confident that their budget is a very realistic budget and fit in the program Paris 2024 wants to put in place," Baumann said.
On the final day of their visit, IOC commission members met with French President Emmanuel Macron, who said he would go to Lausanne. Macron may also go to Lima if he finds a slot in his agenda.
"Clearly the state if fully behind the bid," Paris bid leader Tony Estanguet said. "Emmanuel Macron is personally committed, following in the footsteps of Francois Hollande."