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Paris 2024 Olympic bosses unveil revolutionary marathon route

By Paul Myers - RFI
Europe  Paris 2024 Olympics
OCT 6, 2022 LISTEN
© Paris 2024 Olympics

Organisers of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris have unveiled a route for the men's and women's marathon loosely based on a march undertaken in 1789 by nearly 7,000 Parisian women opposed to King Louis XVI as revolutionary fervour rose in France.

The races - like the march in October 1789 - will start at the Hotel de Ville, Paris's city hall.

Unlike the march, the Paris 2024 marathons will not end at Versailles but finish instead at Les Invalides – the site of Napoleon's tomb.

During the first half of the 42.195 kilometre trek, runners will head west towards Versailles taking in internationally famous sites such as the Opera Garnier, Place Vendôme and the Jardin des Tuileries.

On the way back to central Paris, competitors will encounter energy sapping inclines, trail through parts of Meudon forest as well as skirt along the western stretches of the river Seine in Sevres and Issy-Les-Moulineaux before passing by the Eiffel Tower to their journey's end.

“The marathon is one of the markers of the Olympics and we want to highlight that,” said Tony Estanguet, head of the Paris 2024 organising committee.

Firsts

As part of that drive, Paris Olympic bosses have decided to break with tradition and stage the men's race on the penultimate day of competition and promote the women's race as the final event of the two-week extravaganza on 11 August 2024.

The marathon course will be open to more than 20,000 non-competitive runners.

“It's an iconic race course,” said Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris. “And it sums up what we mean by the Olympics. It will be something that takes place outside the stadium and brings together several locations.

“It shows the ambition that we have set ourselves.”

French touch

The inclusion of the marathon in the Olympic schedule is – according to legend – a French innovation.

As Pierre de Courbertin was formulating the blueprint for the modern Olympic Games, his friend - the renowned philologist Michel Bréal - suggested the event to commemorate the Greek soldier Pheidippides who ran the distance to recount the outcome of the Battle of Marathon.

Women started running their own event at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

Paula Radcliffe, who held the women's marathon world record between 2003 and 2019, said: "It will be a beautiful and inspiring course to run as well as watch on TV. 

"The fact that it will be the last event of the 2024 Games is a wonderful way for women to be honoured,” added the 48-year-old Briton.

"Paris 2024 is providing us a route that's rich in symbolism, entertainment and athletic challenge," said Yohan Durand, a member of the French marathon team.

"Taking up this challenge here in my home country is a lifelong ambition."

Splash

Last December, organisers showed a video of their plans for an extravagant opening ceremony on 26 July.

It involves holograms and dancers as hundreds of boats surge along the river Seine past some of the world's most famous landmarks.

More than 10,000 athletes will cruise along the waterway from the Pont d'Austerlitz in the east passing Notre Dame cathedral, the Samaritaine department store and the Musée d'Orsay in nearly 200 boats with cheering crowds packed on either side of the river.

The competitors will disembark after their six-kilometre voyage at the Pont d'Iéna between the Eiffel Tower on the left bank and the Trocadero gardens on the right.

“What's important for sport is to ensure that it stays engaged with the fans,” said Jon Ridgeon, chief executive of World Athletics.

“Paris will clearly be the backdrop for some world class sport and for the marathon itself, it's going to be a really challenging course – probably the most challenging in the history of the Games - and the public are going to be running over the course too.

“It's going to be about more than elite sport. It will be about the people being able to have a go themselves and that's perfect.”

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