Unveiled Tuesday, July 12 behind closed doors of the Board of Directors, these are more than 50 pages, signed “Restricted”which reveal many concerns about the Olympic budget. This summary, commissioned by Tony Estanguet at the start of the year, dissects the state of the finances of the Paris 2024 Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (Cojo).
This report is just one step. Led by Jacques Lambert, the chairman of the audit committee in place since 2018, it should serve as a guide for the next revision of the budget for the Olympic Games, at the end of the year. Until now, this analysis in the measured tone, often technical, had not been published. Only certain passages had been transmitted publicly and to the press. “Control of your expenses”, “solid work” on the ticket office, “well thought out strategy” : the report seemed to be a satisfaction for the Cojo.
However, read in its entirety, the progress report is also a warning. He points to financial risks, with the key, a potential additional cost for the Paris Olympic Games. The rapporteurs are already planning “strong, difficult, and courageous decisions” next fall to keep costs down.
From the very first lines, under the heading “Expenses”, the audit committee makes an implacable observation: “The financing needs (…) are significantly higher than the possibilities offered by the income and the contingency reserve together”. Clearly, income is, as it stands, insufficient to meet expenses. The experts do not speak of slippage, but of “tension on the budget balance”was “anticipated”.
How to explain it? There is of course galloping inflation around the world, and shortages, linked to the war in Ukraine or the Covid-19 pandemic. But these are not the only causes, according to this document.
The “Lambert report” also points “the ambitions assigned to certain projects” of Paris 2024. According to him, it is necessary to “see again” so “thorough [ces] ambition”sorting out the projects “central for the delivery of the event [et] those who are not”. Objective assumed: not to see the accounts of the Games explode, two years from the event.
The auditors even make a radical recommendation: it is necessary to consider a “renunciation” to some “scheduled operations”. Will Paris 2024 have to cut back on events or the opening ceremony? Relocating certain sports again? While cautious, this document never specifies this; elements have also been redacted so as not to “harm” Where “to thwart ongoing negotiations”.
Asked, the Cojo says it is working on “ideas” cost reduction, without wanting to detail them at this stage. “If we have to make significant savings, all avenues are open”we assure, while “trying not to touch what makes the integrity of the project“. Between the lines, the organizers are trying to reduce the backstage bill for the Olympics, such as those for the services offered to Olympic delegations and members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Budgetary boom does not only worry the rapporteurs. The open-air opening ceremony on the Seine also raised eyebrows among members of the board of directors. “We already have more than 31 million euros in additional budget for the four opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. We will have to be careful not to go too far”alert Patrick Karam, vice-president (Les Républicains) of the Ile-de-France region.
If the audit committee deems these reductions necessary, it is also because all the promised revenue has not yet arrived. Among other things, there is a lack of sponsors, and of the first rank. In the jargon, they are called “premium partners”, French companies ready to pay tens of millions of euros. Paris 2024 has already convinced five to finance the Games: Groupe BPCE, Carrefour, EDF, Orange, and Sanofi. Their contribution is crucial, because, alone, they will pay the sum of 405 million euros for the event.
However, a sixth is still missing to achieve the announced objectives, which alarms the rapporteurs: “The signing of an additional contract (…) is an imperative necessity”. This signature would be on the right track, assures the Cojo, which assures “do the best”.
Some budget forecasts would also be too optimistic. In particular, the experts studied the income from official licensed products (clothing, derivative products, mascots, etc.). The Cojo estimates that they will bring in a total of 127 million euros, a figure judged “ambitious” by the rapporteurs, who ask to “reset this goal”.
The audit committee, finally, combs the negotiations around the future sites of the Olympic Games. Indeed, for certain events, the organizers want to entrust the management of Olympic events to external service providers. In all, 21 places are concerned, including the National Golf or the Yves-du-Manoir stadium, which will host field hockey.
— The National Golf (@legolfnational) September 14, 2017
Negotiations have been going on for months. On paper, this method is hailed and judged as “virtuous and pragmatic”. It allows you to count on experienced companies or federations, familiar with major sporting events.
But, according to the report, these providers are annoyed by “negotiations that drag on and a dialogue described as interminable”. Specifications too strict, budget promised too low, lack “operational efficiency”, “increasing complexity”… The many grievances create “a form of weariness” among negotiators. Above all, if these negotiations do not succeed, they will be “additional cost generators” for Paris 2024.
“It’s not at all false, it’s even quite true”we recognize at the Cojo. “It’s long, it takes time, and some operators would also prefer that we go faster, and that we put more money on the table. It’s part of the game.”
The Cojo also had to take over the organization of the swimming events at the Arena La Défense in Nanterre, and those of basketball and handball in Lille. Others might follow: “Sf we realize that, for an operational reason, it’s better to do it ourselves, we won’t hesitate for a second. It’s really common sense that guides us“promise the organizers.
Cost reduction ideas have not yet been submitted to the Paris 2024 Board of Directors. There is still until the end of the year to make proposals, so that the Paris Games remain within budget.