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Champs-Elysées and Place de la Concorde to stage Paralympic Games opening ceremony

Images: Paris 2024

Paris 2024 has confirmed plans to become the first edition of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games to stage the two events’ opening ceremonies outside of the traditional stadium environment, with the latter proposed as a “magical celebration” in the heart of the French capital, between the Champs-Elysées and Place de la Concorde.

The decision, endorsed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), came at a Paris 2024 board of directors meeting yesterday (Thursday). In July, the board officially mandated Paris 2024 to present to the IPC an alternative concept of a Paralympic Games opening ceremony in the heart of the host city.

The Champs-Elysées and Place de la Concorde will be the setting for a Paralympics ceremony that will open on August 28, 2024 with a parade of 4,400 athletes from 184 delegations across the world. It will begin on the Champs-Elysées as a symbolic guard of honour, before continuing at the Place de la Concorde, which will be adapted to be accessible to all.

Some 65,000 people will be able to attend the ceremony, including 30,000 with free access at the lower end of the Champs-Elysées. Place de la Concorde will be transformed into a 35,000-seat stadium environment for paying ticket-holders, with the Obelisk at the centre.

“To shed light on the achievements of Paralympic athletes, the values they embody and the emotions they make us experience, Paris 2024 wanted to offer them an unprecedented window of exhibition by organising the first opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games outside a stadium,” said Tony Estanguet, president of Paris 2024. 

“Beyond this unprecedented setting offered to the greatest athletes and spectators from around the world, this ceremony in the heart of the city is strongly symbolic of our ambition to take advantage of the hosting of the first Paralympic Games in our country to place the issue of the inclusion of people with disabilities at the heart of society.”

The IPC said that holding the opening ceremony of the 2024 Paralympic Games outside of a stadium reflects the Paris 2024 slogan ‘Games Wide Open’ and aligns with the organising committee’s broader ambition to organise sports competitions in iconic city sites.

Blind football matches will be held at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, while Para equestrian events will take place in the Chateau de Versailles gardens, and wheelchair fencing and Para taekwondo will be staged at the Grand Palais.

IPC president, Andrew Parsons, said: “In a city that reverberates to history, Paris is creating a new moment in time that people will talk about for years to come. What is very clear to me is that something special is being created for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games.

“This festival of inclusion all begins with the truly unique experience of thousands of Paralympians parading down the world’s most famous avenue. What an amazing thrill it’s going to be to enter the Champs-Elysees and then make the journey down to Place de la Concorde, all the while being framed by the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre. I think it is going to be a thing of beauty, and a once-in-a-lifetime event that will go down in all our histories.”

The Paralympic Games decision comes after Paris 2024 announced in December that its Olympic Games will stage the first-ever opening ceremony outside of a stadium environment with the athletes’ parade to be held along the River Seine.

Organisers outlined plans for the parade of athletes to be held on the capital’s arterial waterway, with boats for each national delegation. The parade will come to the end of its 6km route in front of the Trocadéro, where the remaining elements of the Olympic protocol and final shows will take place. Each boat will be equipped with cameras to allow television and online viewers to see the athletes up close.

At least 600,000 spectators will be able to attend the festivities, which is around 10 times more than would be able to fit in Paris 2024’s main stadium, the Stade de France. Admission will be free for most spectators, with those wishing to access the lower quays, from the Austerlitz bridge to the Iéna bridge, needing to purchase tickets. The ambition to include this volume of people in the festivities is currently causing a major security headache for organisers.