Paris 2024 promises to be an Olympic Games like no other

By Sports Desk April 16, 2024

Boats down the Seine, B-boys at the Place de la Concorde and the lure of cold, hard cash promise to make the Paris 2024 Olympics, which get underway in 100 days’ time in the French capital, a Games like none before.

If traditionalists were already blanching at audacious plans to rip up over a century of opening ceremony traditions, let alone welcoming the sport of breaking into the Olympic fray, they will have been white-eyed with fury at the announcement that track and field stars will each pocket a USD50,000 bonus.

After the relative sterility of a delayed and Covid-stricken Tokyo 2020, the French capital, as well as the individual sports on an ever-growing and potentially tenuous programme, is preparing to pull out all the stops.

The Games will start on July 26 with the first opening ceremony to be staged outside a stadium, each national delegation instead sent bobbling 6km down the city’s major artery before disembarking in front of the Eiffel Tower.

Two weeks later, windmills, freezers and top rocks will become an official part of the Olympic lexicon for the first time as breaking makes its debut, B-boys and B-girls going head-to-head in DJ-driven battles.

If its inclusion is not quite as contentious as the appearance of live pigeon shooting on the programme for the first Paris Olympics in 1900, it has raised some questions about the IOC’s almost obsessional commitment towards attracting the attention of global youth.

Breaking joins other recently established sports like skateboarding, surfing and BMXing in the so-called ‘urban’ section of a constantly evolving Olympic programme, and one for which it would appear a city like Paris is ideally suited.

For Team GB, now led by the likes of 15-year-old Sky Brown, keen to build on her history-making skateboarding bronze in Tokyo, there is a sense of similar upheaval, as a generation of new stars emerge and begin to eclipse the established order.

There will be no Laura Kenny to light up the Velodrome, while in contrast to their dominant pre-Tokyo preparations, question-marks hang over the ability of the likes of Adam Peaty and Max Whitlock to retain their respective titles.

Nevertheless, Tom Dean, Keely Hodgkinson, Tom Daley, Beth Shriever and Emily Campbell will expect to return to the podium at the head of a squad that looks more than capable of resuming its top three status in the final medals table.

Dean and his closest revival Duncan Scott continued a stunning surge to prominence by the British swimming team – kick-started by Peaty’s heroics in Rio – while Daley and Matty Lee underscored a wave of promise for Team GB in the water.

Hodgkinson’s ongoing battle to avoid another silver lining against rivals Athing Mu and Mary Moraa will generate top billing on the track, where double world champion Josh Kerr resumes his mouthwatering rivalry with Norway’s Jakob Ingebrigtsen.

The international narrative will inevitably be headed by Simone Biles, hoping to add to her current haul of seven Olympic medals after recovering from a psychological phenomenon known as the ‘twisties’ which restricted her success in Tokyo to a solitary – if heroic – bronze on the beam.

Meanwhile French hopes do not come any bigger – literally – than judo heavyweight Teddy Riner, who boasts three Olympic golds and 11 world titles, and bids to cap his extraordinary career with another victory on home soil.

All of which will be played out in front of the welcome sight of sold-out grandstands, a world away from the bare bleachers in Tokyo, and a symbol, or so the IOC would like to see it, of the Games having weathered one of the most serious storms in its history.

It is perhaps that new-found consciousness of the need to adapt that has pushed the IOC into making more aggressive changes, be it in future bidding processes or in urging the b-boys and b-girls off the streets and into the Olympic auditorium for the first time.

The Olympic movement has evolved unthinkably since that first Paris Games 124 years ago, when resolutely amateur pursuits like angling, ballooning and croquet were also on the programme, the latter reportedly staged in front of a single paying spectator.

Some might say the latest changes are a step too far. But after the turmoil of Tokyo, most of those fortunate enough to be present in Paris will just be grateful that the Olympics are back, and braced to bop to any kind of beat at all.

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    Jamaican track & field fans have earned a reputation as some of the most passionate and supportive people you will ever come across and, for British sprint superstar Dina Asher-Smith, seeing it up close and personal at the Jamaica Athletics Invitational on May 11 was a riveting experience.

    Asher-Smith, a proud member of the Jamaican diaspora herself through her father Winston, ran her second-fastest time of the young season, 22.59, to take top spot in the Women’s 200m at the inaugural edition of the meet held at the National Stadium in Kingston.

    The 28-year-old, in a post-race interview, said that, regardless of the result, she felt “blessed” to finally compete in Jamaica.

    “It’s something that I’ve wanted to do forever and ever. I am a part of the Jamaican diaspora around the world,” she said before pointing out that her parents flew in from London to see her compete.

    “I’m just so proud to have come here and, however today would’ve gone, it’s just a blessing to come here and race in Jamaica,” she added.

    The 2019 World 200m champion, in another interview after her race with The Inside Lane, expounded on her experience competing in Jamaica.

    “I’m just so blessed to be in this country and blessed that they support me on that level,” she said.

    “I don’t think I can quite articulate what it means to come to another country and they want you to do well and they’re so happy that you’re here. I think, as an athlete, we all want the medals, we all want the titles, we all want the records but at the same time, it means a lot that people want to see you do well,” she added.

    The British record holder in both the 100m and 200m said the support from fans even extended to off the track, mentioning that Jamaican guests at the hotel she stayed at often referred to her as “cousin” based on her Jamaican heritage.

    “It’s been amazing. I’ve always known that the Jamaican fans are so supportive but being here and seeing it up close like when you’re in the hotel and people also staying there are like ‘cousin, cousin!’ It means so much because when you’ve got your actual roots celebrating you and they like you for who you are, I can’t even describe the feeling. It’s so amazing.”

     

  • Felt good: Jackson pleased with execution after 200m season opener in Rabat Felt good: Jackson pleased with execution after 200m season opener in Rabat

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    Jackson produced 22.82 to win ahead of Ivorian Maboundou Kone (22.96) and France’s Helene Parisot (23.02) in conditions she described as not ideal for fast sprinting.

    “Felt good. I think I did pretty well tonight. Out here is a bit cold and windy but, nevertheless, I’m healthy and that’s good,” Jackson said in a post-race interview.

    In addition to the weather, Jackson commented on the lack of fans in the stadium to give the athletes a boost, stating that it paled in comparison to last year’s edition of the meet.

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  • Jackson and Clayton shine but Jamaica's men fall short of the podium in Rabat Jackson and Clayton shine but Jamaica's men fall short of the podium in Rabat

    Shericka Jackson and Rushell Clayton showcased their class while being among the winners at Sunday’s Diamond League meeting in Rabat, Morocco.

    Jackson, who made her season debut in the 100m in Kingston on May 4 after a late start to her season, was not at her sharpest in Rabat but good enough to keep the field at bay as she sprinted to victory in 22.82 seconds while running into a headwind of -1.0m/s.

    Maboundou Kone of the Ivory Coast was a close second in 22.96 with Helene Parisot of England in 23.02.

    Earlier, Clayton was more impressive. Coming off an encouraging victory at the Jamaica Athletic Invitational on May 11 when she ran a world-leading 53.72, Clayton once again dominated the first 300m but was closed down by compatriot Shian Salmon along the home stretch. Still, she managed to hold on to win in 53.98. Salmon ran an enterprising race for second place clocking 54.27.

    Anna Ryzhykova ran a commendable 55.09 for third place.

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    There was no doubt about the winner Emmanuel Eseme of Cameroon who crossed first in 10.11 with Canada’s Andre Degrasse finishing in second place in 10.19.

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