on the quays of the Seine, curiosities and questions about the rehearsals of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games

Thirty-nine boats paraded on the Seine on Monday during a technical test of the opening ceremony of the Paris Olympics. Along the quays of the capital, many spectators were able to watch the river parade.

It is not yet 10 in the morning near the Pont d’Arcole, in Paris, that some curious are already waiting impatiently, camera in hand. “Have they already passed?”one of them asks, visibly worried about missing the show. A stone’s throw from the capital’s town hall, where passing tourists immortalize themselves in front of the Olympic rings, the first barge entitled Don Juan II ends up pointing its nose about ten minutes later.

This Monday, July 17, 39 boats parade one after the other on the Seine, between the Pont d’Austerlitz and the Pont d’Iéna, during a technical rehearsal for the future opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, scheduled for July 26, 2024 The goal: to better understand the maneuvers, the distances, have a precise idea of ​​the duration but also test the video capture device provided by the Olympic Broadcasting Service (OBS). “Nobody Ever Filmed It”recalls Thierry Reboul, executive director responsible for the Paris 2024 brand, during a press conference at the end of the morning. “We built boats for the occasion, it’s a real argument why if there will be thousands of people all along the Seine (100,000 in the lower part of the docks)there will be more than a billion in front of television”.

One of the delegation boats sails on the Seine during the technical rehearsal for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, July 17, 2023. (Clément Mariotti Pons)

On the docks, the runners in full exertion barely glance at what is happening on the water, their eyes more fixed on their watches. Mark, on the other hand, is more attentive. The 52-year-old man lists the numbers of the various boats aloud. “And all of a sudden, the signs being waved will show the names of nations, right? And can there be multiple countries on the same barge?”he wonders. Next to her, Federica, an Italian visitor, wonders how all the athletes will hold on.

Several delegations on the same boat

The answers will come a few minutes later through the president of the Organizing Committee, Tony Estanguet. “Indeed, several delegations can be on the same boat. In terms of production, we have to ensure that there is sufficient time for each one to be proposed. The boats all have an external capacity to welcome the athletes, and that is where there will be a protective device to shelter yourself inside.”

The Minister of Sport and the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, and Tony Estanguet, president of the Organizing Committee of the Paris 2024 Games, July 17, 2023. (BERTRAND GUAY / AFP)

By ascending the Léopold-Sédar-Senghor footbridge, which borders the Tuileries Garden and the Orsay Museum, we can better see the different corridors of the fleet, which ascends towards the Eiffel Tower. The left side is reserved for video shooting, in the center the barges of the athletes, while on the right the outboards of the river brigade which guarantee safety. “Today 850 firefighters and police mobilised”, explains Marc Guillaume, prefect of the Île-de-France region. They will be more numerous in just over a year for the official launch of the Olympic Games.

No more than 30 electric ships out of the 180 planned

Because if this parade of boats serves as a test, it won’t be 39 but 91 who will sail on D-Day, not counting the reserve ships, civil security, TV, organization… What to do raise the parade to 170 or even 180. “This raises the question of ecology, I hope there are electric motors”worries Marine, 35, who stopped “unawares” at the height of the Alma bridge on his way to his workplace. According to our information, only one of the boats is equipped with it on Monday. “We aim for around thirty in the fleet on July 26, 2024”says Marc Guillaume. “The Games will have a leverage effect, thanks to them the shipowners will modernize part of their fleet, but today most of it is still under construction”.

Members of the Paris 2024 organization, with flags and placards, test their ranges during the technical test on the Seine, July 17, 2023. (DELPHINE GOLDSZTEJN / MAXPPP)

At the Debilly gangway, the vessels begin their brake and end trials. The latest details are provided by the Minister of Sport and the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra. “We are trying to identify a series of points of interest around the Seine with the Paris town hall and the police headquarters to better follow the ceremony. The free ticket office is also being set up”. And the artistic part of the opening ceremony? “Thomas Jolly was on the track this morning, with his team”, specifies Thierry Reboul. “But it’s not yet the time to announce everything”slips into a smile.

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