Christophe Dubi, executive director of the Olympic Games: ‘The criticism of venues being underused is exaggerated’

The head of the event defends the management of the International Olympic Committee in past years, and speaks of a new approach to designating the host cities of the future

Christophe Dubi, executive director of the Olympic Games.
Christophe Dubi, executive director of the Olympic Games.

These are busy days for the person responsible for ensuring that everything goes according to the plan during the 17 days in which Paris will become the world epicenter of sport. Christophe Dubi has been the executive director of the Olympic Games since the controversial 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, which he describes as “one of the best things” that happened to Brazil. He says that more than Paris, his mind is on the Milan-Cortina 2026 Winter Games: “The last two years of each Olympics are the time in which we become more operational. We are always in that stage, there is always work.” Two weeks before the Olympic flame lights up the Seine, Dubi reviews some of the key aspects of the world’s largest sporting event.

Question. What makes the Paris 2024 Olympic Games different?

Answer. They are the first Olympic Games that fully reflect the vision of the IOC Agenda 2020, emphasizing that the Games must adapt to the city, and not the other way around. Consequently, we are maximizing the use of existing infrastructure in Paris and the region. Furthermore, these Games will not only be the most sustainable to date from an environmental point of view, but also from an economic one. There are recent estimates that project an impressive economic impact of between €7 [$7.5 million] and €11 billion [$11.8 billion].

Q. What prompted the IOC to change its approach?

A. Between 2013 and 2015, it was a challenge to find cities willing to host the Games. Fears prevailed that hosting them could place excessive demands on the host city's finances. Recognizing this issue, we completely changed our strategy to create a more favorable and sustainable approach for potential candidates. As a result, we offer cities a support model that makes interested parties more willing to host the Games, confident in the sustainable and adaptable framework that we now offer them.

Q. How did the International Olympics Committee realize that the perspective had to change?

A. We faced significant criticism for building venues that were underused after the Games. However, our recent report shows that this criticism, while valid in some cases, was often exaggerated. Most Olympic venues have been used effectively for many decades. However, some high-profile cases, such as the Athens 2004 hosting sports such as softball, baseball and hockey, which were never popular in Greece, created a lasting negative perception.

Q. What was the IOC’s perspective in allowing certain cities to host the Games, despite their lack of facilities and infrastructure at the time of their decision?

A. When the IOC chose Athens in 1997, the decision was driven by a vision of profound urban transformation, similar to the impact of the 1992 Barcelona Games. I was closely involved in monitoring the construction and I can affirm that the Athens project was ambitious, but well executed. Despite some initial skepticism about the city’s preparedness in terms of facilities and infrastructure, the Athens 2004 Games went off flawlessly. The ceremonies were impressive and the architectural contributions, such as the Olympic Park, designed by Santiago Calatrava, became iconic landmarks. While there is always debate about the need for such large projects, the decisions made at the time were aimed at creating lasting beauty and functionality for Athens. It would be difficult to find anyone who opposes this project in the city.

Q. And in Rio de Janeiro?

A. Rio 2016 profoundly transformed the city, creating vital connections between the poorest areas and the city center that allow the people of Rio de Janeiro to access employment opportunities. Reports show that many of the sports facilities have found new life, either continuing their initial purpose or being repurposed as schools or for other essential services. The Olympic Games have been one of the best things to have happened to Rio. If you ask me if we would organize the Games there again, the answer is a resounding yes. Tomorrow.

Q. What message does it send to the IOC that in recent years many candidate cities have withdrawn from the selection process, such as Budapest, Hamburg and Rome?

A. The withdrawal of several candidate cities from the selection process has highlighted the need for a more flexible and collaborative approach. The nature of the process now allows any city to engage with us and express interest, allowing us to assess whether the timing and conditions are right for their project. In this way, we ensure that the Games are aligned with the long-term strategic plans and needs of cities, regions and their citizens.

Q. In 2021, Brisbane was chosen as the host city for the 2032 Olympic Games, presenting itself as the only candidate.

A. Normally, we plan the Games six or seven years in advance, but Brisbane presented such a compelling vision that we jumped at the opportunity despite having Paris and Los Angeles in the queue for 2024 and 2028, respectively. This proactive approach not only breaks down bureaucratic barriers, but also signals to our partners that the IOC is willing to accept promising collaborations as they arise. Brisbane's mature and innovative 2032 bid represented a strategic move to ensure the future of the Olympic movement spanned Europe, the Americas and Oceania, following the recent Games in Asia. Paris, famous for its culture; Los Angeles, epicenter of technology and entertainment; and Brisbane, renowned for its sporting prowess and stunning landscapes; three cities that underline the narrative diversity that the Games embody.

Q. What do you think about the possibility of the Games being held in one or several rotating cities in the future?

A. By 2050, climate change could require rotating the Winter Games between 10 and 11 climatically reliable regions, since finding snow below 2,000 meters could be very difficult. While it is appealing to revisit cities like London, which have proven infrastructure, it is crucial that the Games explore uncharted territories to enrich their cultural and global significance. Constantly returning to previous hosts would deny other communities the opportunity to showcase their unique flavor and benefit from the international attention. The Olympic Games are not only about sport, but also about culture, music and the general spirit of the various host cities.

Q. What do you like most about the Games?

A. This one is easy. The union of the international community around the Games. The games are the great unifier, the only event in which everyone participates regardless of passport, race, religion... their humanity is what keeps me in this business.

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