Paris enters race to host Olympics

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Paris enters race to host Olympics

PARIS - Declaring they have learned from their past mistakes and failures, French officials launched a bid Tuesday to bring the Olympics to Paris in 2024 - 100 years after the games were last held in the city.

Paris became the fourth city to enter the 2024 race and, with a bid team led by athletes and sports officials rather than politicians, believes it has found a winning formula after a string of stinging defeats.

“We’ve learned our lessons,’’ bid CEO Etienne Thobois said. “This time around, this is about winning.’’

The Paris bid, which had been in the works for months, was formally announced at the headquarters of the French Olympic Committee in a ceremony attended by dozens of leading French athletes in a packed hall.

“We believe that this bid and our goal to host the 2024 Games will excite, unite and enthuse the people of Paris, our entire nation and lovers of Olympic and Paralympic sport all over the world,’’ said bid chairman Bernard Lapasset, surrounded by current and past Olympians shouting “Allez Paris!’’

The French capital joins Boston, Hamburg and Rome as declared bidders. The Budapest city council voted Tuesday to support a bid, but the project still needs approval from the Hungarian government and parliament.

The deadline for submission of bids is Sept. 15. The International Olympic Committee will select the host city in 2017.

The French sports daily L’Equipe proclaimed on its front page: “Paris En Tete,’’ or Paris out in front. This was supported by British bookmaker William Hill, which listed Paris as the 5-4 favorite.

Paris was also considered the favorite in the race for the 2012 Olympics, only to lose out to London in a close vote. Paris also failed in bids for the 1992 and 2008 Games.

French officials were criticized for their perceived arrogance in previous bids. This time, they have opted for a more cautious and sports-driven approach, leaving government officials in a supporting role and making sure all the political hurdles were cleared before going forward.

The new bid is led by Lapasset, head of the International Rugby Union, and Tony Estanguet, a three-time Olympic canoeing gold medalist and an IOC athlete member.

“Different times, different bids,’’ Thobois said. “In 2012, it was more of a political leadership. I think we’ve learned from that. We’re now in a position where we have a strong leadership form the sports movement.’’

“Like an athlete you learn from your defeats,’’ he added. “We tried to learn from our mistakes. We also looked at what others did. We’ve tried to listen and we’ve consulted. This is a bid to win.’’

The bid announcement coincided with the annual Olympic Day, which celebrates the founding of the IOC in Paris on June, 23, 1894, by French baron Pierre de Coubertin.

Paris hosted the Olympics in 1900 and 1924. Despite the strong symbolism of hosting the games 100 years since the last time, French officials are not focusing on the connection.

“We are very proud of our history, but we’re looking forward, not looking backwards,’’ Thobois said. “This is a bid for today.’’

AP

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