‘Hundreds of thousands’ will get free tickets for Paris 2024 Olympics opening ceremony

"Hundreds of thousands" of people will be able to watch the opening ceremony of the Paris Olympics for free, organisers have said amid ongoing criticism about the price of tickets for next year's event.

'Hundreds of thousands' will get free tickets for Paris 2024 Olympics opening ceremony
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera and Organising Committee President Tony Estanguet during the signing of the protocol for the opening ceremony of the Paris 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. (Photo by Geoffroy Van der Hasselt / AFP)

The final figure for the number of people who will be granted tickets for the vast and ambitious outdoor opening ceremony along the river Seine is still under discussion.

“Hundreds of thousands,” French interior Minister Gérald Darmanin told a press conference when questioned about the number of people. “It will depend on the weather and the publicity you do for it.”

Around 100,000 tickets will be sold for exclusive river-side positions, with organisers initially saying another 500,000 would be given an opportunity to watch from higher positions on roads above the Seine.

Athletes are set to sail down the river in a flotilla of 115 boats, the first time the opening ceremony for the Olympics has taken place outside of the athletics stadium.

“With its open and public nature, this ceremony will enable hundreds of thousands of people to see it for free,” Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo told the same press conference with Darmanin and Games chief Tony Estanguet.

With demand far outstripping supply, Paris 2024 organisers have faced a stream of criticism online and even from some athletes over the price of tickets, which first went on sale in February and March.

A second release, which began on May 11, has led to outrage over prices as high as €2,700 for the paying positions for the opening ceremony.

“I’m not even sure that my family will be able to come to see me, it’s so expensive,” Belgium’s Nafissatou Thiam, a two-time Olympic heptathlon champion, told Belgian media DH recently.

The ceremony also poses a huge security challenge for French organisers, with around 10,000 athletes taking part and 200 heads of state set to attend in addition to the huge crowds on the river banks.

Around 37,000 members of the security forces would be on duty for the opening ceremony, Darmanin said, with summer holidays cancelled for police over the period of the Games which will run from July 26th to August 11th.

Between 2,000 and 3,000 private security agents are also being recruited for the opening ceremony.

Darmanin stressed drones were considered the biggest security threat, but he added air defence technology was available and would be trialed later this year during the Rugby World Cup in France.

“It’s a new threat. It’s not certain that anything will happen but it is certainly the most difficult to prepare for,” he said.

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France angers UN after announcing hijab ban for Olympic athletes

The UN stressed on Tuesday it was opposed to most dress codes for women, after France barred its athletes from wearing the Muslim hijab during the 2024 Paris Olympics.

France angers UN after announcing hijab ban for Olympic athletes

“No-one should impose on a woman what she needs to wear or not wear,” United Nations rights office spokeswoman Marta Hurtado told reporters in Geneva.

Hurtado’s comment came after the French sports minister said the country’s athletes would be barred from wearing headscarves during the Games, in line with the country’s strict rules on secularism.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Does France really have a hijab ban?

French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera repeated on Sunday that the government was opposed to any display of religious symbols during sporting events.

“What does that mean? That means a ban on any type of proselytising. That means absolute neutrality in public services,” she told France 3 television.

“The France team will not wear the headscarf.”

Hurtado did not address France’s stance directly.

But she stressed that the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women ruled out discriminatory practices.

“Any state party to the convention — in this case France — has an obligation to … modify social or cultural patterns which are based on the idea of the inferiority or superiority of either sexes,” Hurtado said.

“Discriminatory practices against a group can have harmful consequences,” she pointed out.

“That is why … restrictions on expressions of religions or beliefs, such as attire choices, are only acceptable under really specific circumstances,” she explained.

That, she said, meant circumstances “that address legitimate concerns of public safety, public order, or public health or morals in a necessary and proportionate fashion”.

In France, the issue of religious dress goes to the heart of the country’s strict rules on secularism.

These are intended to keep the state neutral in religious matters, while guaranteeing citizens the right to freely practice their religion.

France’s laws prohibit the wearing of “ostentatious” religious symbols in some contexts, such as in state schools and by civil servants.

It outlawed full-face coverings in 2010.

In June, France’s Council of State upheld a ban on women footballers wearing the hijab.