Have deficient and Paris suburbs received Olympic gold?

SAINT-DENIS: Lower than 500m separate the Stade de France – the glowing centrepiece of the Paris Olympics –and the crumbling Francs-Moisins property plagued via poverty and crime.

Samia Achoui, a secretary who lives in one of the most gray blocks dogged via drug dealing, does no longer have a price ticket to look the Video games.

As a substitute she is going to pay attention from her window to the cheers and applause echoing over the canal.

In spite of its title, the Paris Olympics will happen most commonly in Seine-Saint-Denis at the different aspect of the “peripherique” ring highway that divides the French capital from a few of its poorest and maximum infamous suburbs, referred to as banlieues.

The densely populated working-class division north of Paris hosts 4 of the Video games’ large venues, the athletes’ village and different key Olympic websites.

Paris’s pitch for the Video games – which run from Jul 26 to Aug 11 – leaned onerous on regenerating a space that has absorbed wave after wave of immigration and has the rustic’s youngest inhabitants. A 3rd of its 1.6 million other folks lives under the poverty line.

France no longer simplest hopes to make use of the Olympics to turbo-charge ongoing redevelopment there, however to recast the fevered symbol of Seine-Saint-Denis as a crime-ridden number of ghettos cast all the way through suburban riots which began there in 2005.

Its recognition took an additional battering on the planet’s media after the 2022 Champions League Ultimate fiasco, when soccer enthusiasts had been attacked and robbed on their manner into the Stade de France.


Mohamed Gnabaly is relentlessly upbeat about how the Video games may assist exchange Seine-Saint-Denis.

The mayor of Ile-Saint-Denis, the slender island within the River Seine the place a part of the athletes’ village has been constructed, is “obsessed” about making the Olympics “a other folks’s Video games”.

Such a lot in order that his little municipality has introduced 7,000 tickets – one for just about all of its population.

The island, which has its percentage of grim rental blocks, has been became the other way up via development works for the Olympics.

However the mayor is decided it’s going to now extract the utmost take pleasure in the Video games, however that his the town corridor was once ransacked when rioting once more erupted in deficient suburbs throughout France ultimate June after police shot and killed a young person at a visitors forestall simply outdoor Paris.

“I’ve been operating in this for 3 years,” mentioned Gnabaly, who’s proud the island may be house to the Olympics’ “Africa Station”, a fan zone devoted to African tradition and recreation.

“We now have suffered (with the entire paintings) however no longer simplest will this turn into our the town, we will be able to be on the center of the reactor,” the mayor insisted. “We aren’t going to be disregarded via the Video games.”

His optimism isn’t shared via everybody throughout Seine-Saint-Denis.

“There are two extremes,” mentioned Cecile Gintrac of Vigilance JO, a neighborhood watchdog workforce. “One a part of Paris goes to be a large celebration whilst the opposite will not be able to visit paintings or get round” on account of the entire Olympic highway closures and restrictions.

Supply motive force Moussa Syla, 45, who lives within the Francs-Moisins property – which may be getting a significant facelift – mentioned the considered the disruption brings him out in a chilly sweat.

“It will be a nightmare to get round,” he mentioned.


It’s been onerous to head anyplace in Seine-Saint-Denis within the build-up to the Video games with out seeing scaffolding or cranes construction entire new neighbourhoods.

The Olympics is a part of a long-term push to pull up the dep. that started with the symbolic determination to construct the Stade de France there for the 1998 Global Cup, which France’s “rainbow” multiracial staff went directly to win.

Top belongings costs in Paris and a large soon-to-be-delivered extension of its metro machine into Seine-Saint-Denis – Europe’s unmarried largest infrastructure mission – has made the dep. sexy for builders.

Firms like Tesla have moved their French headquarters to its former commercial spaces the place factories have lengthy close.

“We want to discover a 2d wind for Seine-Saint-Denis so jobs keep right here,” mentioned Isabelle Vallentin, the quantity two at Solideo, the state frame charged with turning in the Olympic initiatives.

And Seine-Saint-Denis’s “extraordinarily decrepit housing must be overhauled”, she added.

A big slice of the 4.5 billion euro (US$4.8 billion) construction price range for the Video games goes into this push, with the dep. the large winner, taking round 80 according to cent of one.7 billion euros in public cash. Whilst non-public funding is more difficult to quantify, it most probably isn’t a ways in the back of.


The Olympic Village, the Video games’ largest construction mission and an entire new eco-neighbourhood in itself, will area 14,250 athletes and their improve groups in addition to 6,000 Paralympians.

Constructed on a former commercial zone alongside the River Seine, it’s architecturally numerous, with many constructions overlooking the river. All the ones underneath 8 flooring are constructed of wooden and the entire village’s power comes from warmth pumps and renewables.

As soon as the Paralympics end, the village will morph right into a blended neighbourhood of flats and workplaces, the primary of its 6,000 new citizens transferring in early subsequent 12 months, adopted via a identical collection of employees.

However just a 0.33 of the two,800 flats will probably be offered at the open marketplace.

Opposite to earlier Video games like London – the place the organisers had been accused of “gentrification on an commercial scale” and no longer conserving their guarantees to locals – Solideo’s Vallentin mentioned they insisted builders “reply first to (native) housing wishes”.

So 25 to 40 according to cent of the flats, relying at the 3 municipalities the village spans, will cross to social housing, with the remaining set free at “reasonably priced” rents thru semi-public housing our bodies.

Seine-Saint-Denis’s different large headline win is a snatch of recent swimming swimming pools, of which it’s in dire want.

Essentially the most attention-grabbing is the Olympic Aquatic Centre, a impressive undulating wooden edifice reverse the Stade de France the place the diving, water polo and inventive swimming medals will probably be made up our minds.

It’ll additionally get the principle Olympic pool, which is to be dismantled and divided in two after the Video games, in addition to a brand new coaching pool. The organisers also are serving to pay for 2 others.


Olympic-related websites were shooting up like confetti throughout Seine-Saint-Denis, with the little the town of Dugny prone to be remodeled via the Video games.

Its inhabitants is about to develop via a 3rd with housing on a website online inherited from the Olympics’ “media cluster”. Badly served via public shipping till now, Dugny is the usage of the Video games to diversify its housing inventory, 77 according to cent of which is social housing – the absolute best price in France.

One-third of the 1,400 new houses are being put aside to assist get other folks at the belongings ladder.

Dugny’s younger mayor Quentin Gesell mentioned lots of his buddies “who had grown up like me in Dugny have needed to depart as a result of they may be able to neither purchase right here or hire (their earning being too top for social housing), after they would have most well-liked to stick on the subject of their households.”

Some other extra delicate transformation is prone to come thru a chain of recent footbridges linking spaces lengthy divided via the foremost highway and rail arteries that slice in the course of the division.

Again close to the Francs-Moisins property, a foot and motorcycle bridge is being constructed around the Saint-Denis canal to the Stade de France, changing an outdated and unreliable rotating highway bridge and a steep-stepped pedestrian crossing.

“It is a nightmare to go now,” mentioned Karene, a mom of 3. “You need to fold up the pushchair and take the newborn within the different arm. So that is in point of fact nice, an actual plus for the realm.”

The bridge have been talked of for years however the Video games were given it over the road, striking up two-thirds of the ten.5-million-euro price.

The Olympics were the “pivot level that has sped up the transformation” of the dep., Stephane Troussel, the socialist head of Seine-Saint-Denis council, informed AFP.

“In file time we’ve controlled to ship an enormous quantity of infrastructure, housing, roads and bridges,” he mentioned.


However there are doubts over the roles the Video games promised to ship to the dep., whose 10.4 p.c unemployment price is just about a 3rd upper than the nationwide moderate.

“The Video games are recruiting – get your self a task!” declared the flyer for an Olympic process honest close to Charles de Gaulle airport in December.

“I’ve been to a large number of those and it is at all times the similar,” mentioned Fouad Yousfi as he went between stands searching for cleaners and pastry cooks. “Now not precisely the corporations you want to paintings for, and incessantly badly paid.”

Stephane Laurent, 47, who was once taking a look to “get paintings briefly”, left some other honest in Saint-Denis with an be offering to coach as a safety guard – one thing the Video games have an enormous want for.

Whilst round 180,000 other folks will paintings at the Video games, in keeping with authentic estimates, maximum will probably be on temporary contracts, such because the 6,000 other folks taken on via Sodexo for catering on the Olympic Village.

“We need to be truthful, there may be almost definitely a mismatch between what was once anticipated of the Video games and the extent of unemployment and precarity we’ve,” mentioned Bernard Thibault, a former CGT union chief who sits at the Olympics committee.

Native companies have additionally benefited, selecting up contracts value 330 million euros, in keeping with Seine-Saint-Denis council.

However others query whether or not the Video games’ financial dividend has filtered down.

“We’re one of the most winners,” mentioned Mehdi Ourezifi of Services and products Persos, a neighborhood back-to-work nonprofit that landed a part of the laundry contract for the Olympic Village. “However most often native corporations and back-to-work schemes are disenchanted” given the providence the Video games introduced, he added.


But past the commercial and infrastructural good points, one of the most largest Olympics legacies might be how Seine-Saint-Denis is observed.

Police have already stepped up operations concentrated on drug sellers, boulevard distributors and others who “monopolise public areas”, and a large safety operation is deliberate for the Video games themselves.

However after a police station was once attacked in March after a formative years was once killed via a police automotive all the way through a chase, and the top of the Mongolian delegation was once robbed of jewels value just about 600,000 euros on his technique to a safety committee assembly in October, the unhealthy outdated symbol is proving tough to shake.

Two fatal drug gang shootings in Would possibly have not helped.

But in welcoming guests from in all places the sector this summer season, Seine-Saint-Denis hopes to jot down a brand new bankruptcy its historical past, one who performs up it range and possible reasonably than crime and sporadic outbursts of rioting.

Again at the Francs-Moisins property, Karene is praying that “the visibility” will do everybody just right.

“I am hoping it’s smartly organised, as a result of whether it is just like the soccer (the chaotic scenes earlier than the 2022 Champions League Ultimate), Saint-Denis’s symbol will plummet once more,” she mentioned.

However council leader Troussel is way more constructive: “5 or 10 years from now it’s going to be to Seine-Saint-Denis that folks will come to look the heritage of the Paris Video games,” he mentioned.

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