How Saint-Germain-en-Laye will become the capital of British sport

From July, Saint-Germanois will be able to meet the greatest British athletes in the streets of the royal city. This Thursday, the British Olympic Committee officially chose Saint-Germain-en-Laye to become its preparation center for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. The 300 British athletes will come to train in the Yvelines, a few kilometers from Saint-Denis and Paris where the majority of the events are held. Faced with the hundreds of municipalities in Ile-de-France which have offered to host foreign delegations, the competition is fierce. But “the city has been flirting with us since 2019”, jokes a member of the British delegation.

“This choice was obvious, says Hugh Robertson, president of Team GB. It’s a pretty town. An athletics track has just been built. And then, thanks to transport, we are not far from Paris. We already feel at home. “Some athletes will arrive this summer, others from the summer of 2023. Emily Campbell, Olympic vice-champion in weightlifting in Tokyo, is delighted to come “as often as possible”. All will go to the Olympic Village at the start of the competition.

An economic opportunity

“A financial deal has been put in place,” explains Arnaud Péricard, mayor of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. By paying a “friend’s price”, the British delegation will have access to the Georges-Lefèvre stadium, equipped with a brand new athletics track, the city’s Olympic swimming pool and some of the PSG equipment. To accommodate the entire British athletics team, the city spent 700,000 euros for the construction of an Olympic athletics track, with 8 lanes and a T-shape. In total, this project will have cost 1, 4 million euros. A sum partly covered by state subsidies.

The Olympic athletics track, at the Georges-Lefèvre stadium, under construction – © Mathilde Desgranges / 20 Minutes

Saint-Germain-en-Laye sees this reception as an economic opportunity. “These sports facilities will be occupied during the holiday periods, when the French are at the edge of the ocean, adds the mayor. This will allow the hotels, restaurants and shops of the city to survive for the next three summers. The Brits may stay another month. The question of the reception of the delegation sent for the Paralympic Games remains unresolved.

Encourage vocations

“Welcoming these athletes is not a question of notoriety or image, but of values,” says Arnaud Péricard. The town hall thus hopes to put its young people in sport and, why not, to encourage vocations. The city councilor is interested in “what will remain” after the Olympics. The new track heralds the creation of a new athletics club to revive the practice of this sport.

“This partnership is part of the universal duty of hospitality of those who organize the Games, but there is no doubt that our support will go, first and foremost, to the French”, certifies the mayor, also a lawyer and one of whose clients was the champion boxer OlympicTony Yoka. Even if, “we can share a little chauvinism for the benefit of the English, he jokes. Once is not custom “.

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