the hidden cost of passing the flame

the hidden cost of passing the flame

Landing in Marseille on May 8, the Olympic flame begins a tour of France until July 26. But only in the departments and municipalities which have agreed to pay the mite.

Usually, observes Sylvain Bouchet, historian specializing in the Olympic Games, the arrival of the flame in the organizing country allows the newspapers to be filled with things other than the traditional pre-Games controversies: how to balance the budget, accommodate the volunteers … “It’s a godsend for Cojo, the organizing committee for the Olympic Games,” he said. Except when the cost turns out to be disproportionate for communities, like this year. To receive the flame for one day, each department had to pay 180,000 euros to Cojo. “Our vice-president in charge of Sports spoke with the committee to obtain answers on the use of this sum, specifies Nina Minotto, press officer for Loire-Atlantique. She never obtained a precise answer. Le Cojo only indicated that the real cost of the event would amount to 450,000 euros. Faced with the opacity on the use of taxpayers' money, the department decided to refuse it. The elected officials also regretted that out of a hundred torchbearers planned for the passage, only five could have been proposed by the department. “Priority is given to large private sponsors,” notes Nina Minotto. However, the territory financed for three years, to the tune of 200,000 euros, the preparation of thirty-eight Paralympic athletes.

The hidden costs of the right of way

Mayors uttered a rant. “Unlike the Tour de France, the flame brings nothing to the city. Worse, it costs us and that will annoy people!” Morgan Berger, mayor of Cognac (Charente), was offended in the daily newspaper Sud Ouest. He estimates the cost of organizing the agglomeration and securing the route at 40,000 euros, due to the risk of attack. Because, yes, cities often have to take out the checkbook, in addition to the 180,000 euros paid by the department. Xavier Bonnefont, mayor of Angoulême (Charente), choked when he saw the hidden costs “discovered over time”: almost 100,000 euros. In any case, local authorities have decided to cover the hidden costs, like Finistère.

The mayor of Vichy, Frédéric Aguilera, specifies that in the face of Allier's refusal to pay, it was the intercommunality which paid 180,000 euros. He concedes that he didn't have much choice, but admits: “The Ministry of Sports offered us the flame. The State had just paid us 20 million euros to renovate our high-level sports center. When the State gives us so much, we listen to it. We cannot say that we want to support sporting excellence and tell the State to fuck off when it knocks on our door. We want to make Vichy a city. high-level sport We often organize events, such as, soon, the European triathlon championship. We are, outside of the Paris region, the French territory welcoming the most delegations – 22 – who are preparing for the Olympics. , like the French swimming team.”

Promote the image of small towns

The councilor assures that the benefits of this sports economy now exceed those of thermal spas in terms of overnight stays. And that the flame will also allow Vichy to symbolize the arrival of athletes, who often remain confined to train. “Thanks to this, we will really experience the Olympics even though we are in the depths of France.”

Other small towns, such as Saint-Dizier (Haute-Marne), will make the flame a local celebration. “It is above all a moment of celebration and celebration of Olympic values. We are expecting 10,000 to 15,000 people, a great mobilization of the sporting world of Saint-Dizier and inevitably an opportunity to show a beautiful image of our city”, underlines the mayor, Quentin Brière. At what cost? The councilor does not give precise figures: “It is a controlled cost that we assume, as part of our sports and events policy.”

Sylvain Bouchet considers that the Cojo made a “strategic error” by opting for a very expensive opening ceremony along the Seine: “They could have spent this money on the flame route, the only “free” event and really popular Olympic Games for the French, thus, they would have fulfilled their promise – broken – to organize popular Olympic Games.

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