PARIS—French President Emmanuel Macron said Thursday that the government will help fund 5,000 local facilities to allow more people to practice sports, especially in the country’s poorest areas, ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympics.
The announcement came hours before Macron was scheduled to play in a charity soccer match to raise money for the Hospitals’ Foundation, alongside former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.
The government will provide more than 200 million euros ($232 million) to help local authorities finance about 1,000 judo dojos, 1,000 city parks, some basketball courts and handball fields, small mobile swimming pools and other facilities by 2024, Macron said.
The move aims at remedying an “injustice,” he said. “It is often in the poorest…areas that these facilities are missing.”
The package will focus on funding sport practice in working-class suburbs and rural areas.
Also Thursday, Macron visited a sports center along with French former National Basketball Association player Tony Parker, and the construction site of the future Olympic Village in Paris’s northern suburbs.
In a speech at the headquarters of the Paris 2024 Organizing Committee, Macron said the budget and schedule have so far been respected in the preparations for the Games.
He called for the Paris Olympics to be “inclusive” and environment-friendly, and voiced hope that they will bring France “lots of medals, show our social and environmental excellence, create lots of jobs and housing.”
Macron has strongly supported the Olympic project since being elected in 2017, weeks before Paris was confirmed as the future host. The city’s first Olympics since 1924 are set to have a budget of 6.8 billion euros ($7.9 billion).
International Olympic Committee (IOC) Vice President John Coates, meanwhile, said challenging China on its human-rights record as Beijing prepares to host the 2022 Winter Games is “not in our remit.”
There has been widespread criticism of Beijing’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims in the northwest China region of Xinjiang, which rights groups say amounts to genocide, as well as its crackdown on protesters in Hong Kong and its policies toward Tibet and Taiwan.
Coates, who is also president of the Australian Olympic Committee, said while human rights were an important part of the fundamental principles of the Olympics the IOC had to respect the sovereignty of the host country.
“The IOC’s remit is to ensure that there is no human-rights abuses in respect of the conduct of the Games within the National Olympic Committee, or within the Olympic movement,” Coates told the National Press Club in Australia’s capital, Canberra, on Wednesday. “We have no ability to go into a country and tell them what to do.”
Coates said the IOC was “not a world government.”
“We have to respect the sovereignty of the countries who are hosting the Games,” Coates said. “The work the IOC is doing is to protect the Olympians and those involved in the Olympic [Games]—that’s within our remit.”
The Beijing Winter Games are scheduled to run from February 4 to 20, with the Paralympics set to follow from March 4 to 13. The Chinese capital hosted the Summer Olympics in 2008. AP
Image courtesy of AP