Paris unveils its only inner-city venue built specially for the Olympics

Europe  AP / Thibault Camus
© AP / Thibault Camus

Paris officials have inaugurated the first – and only – purpose-built venue within the French capital for this summer's Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The Adidas Arena at Porte de la Chapelle – among the poorest areas in Paris – is ready and "operational" about five months before the Games begin, organisers said on Sunday.

The venue will host badminton and rhythmic gymnastics events during the 2024 Olympics, as well as Paralympic badminton and weightlifting events.

The Paris council has hailed the new venue as a sign of both the city's readiness and its commitment to use the sporting mega-event to revitalise neglected neighbourhoods.

The organisers deliberately opted against constructing as many purpose-built buildings as other Olympic host cities have.

The main construction work for 2024 includes the Olympic Village, which will house about 15,000 athletes and officials, and a new swimming pool. Both are located outside Paris city limits in the northern suburbs.

Room for 8,000

The new arena, which can host up to 8,000 spectators, cost some €138 million to build. 

It bears the Adidas name through a lucrative partnership with the German sportswear brand, which is said to be worth approximately €2.8 million per year.

Officials say it is also a symbol of the city's desire to host a "sustainable" Olympics, having been built with recycled materials and featuring a green roof.

It will be the first arena of its kind in France to have a "sensory room" for people suffering from cognitive disorders.

After the Games, the venue is expected to host large concerts as well as sporting events. It will also become the home of the Paris Basketball club.

Two gymnasiums next to the venue will provide sport facilities for the local community, the council said.

Urban transformation

Porte de la Chapelle has a reputation as one of the roughest neighbourhoods in Paris. Traditionally working class, in recent years it has become home to hundreds of migrants and asylum-seekers living in makeshift camps that are regularly cleared out by police.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo said that she was "proud" an area that was once described as "a no-go zone" is now beginning to be transformed.

"Before people mocked us," she said. "Change is possible."

But some observers have expressed concern about the knock-on effects of the council's revitalisation project. 

Homelessness charities have accused local authorities of carrying out a "social cleansing" operation in the capital and surrounding region ahead of the games by clearing away the homeless, as well as migrant camps and slums.

Longer term, others warn that the redevelopment will accelerate gentrification and push up Paris's already high rents.

(with AP)