The French government on Monday began work on the athletes’ village for the 2024 Paris Olympics in one of the most deprived areas of the capital.
The village, which will house around 15,000 athletes, is being built in Seine-Saint-Denis, an area known for social tensions and neglect. The three-year project was officially launched on Monday by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.
The aim is to regenerate the suburb by adding 3,000 homes and increasing the provision of sports amenities. Philippe said: "If we want the Games to be a success, we must make sure that all this organisation, all this financing and this mobilisation does not just vanish when the Olympic flame goes out."
Last week, in a separate announcement, Philippe and five other senior members of the government outlined a 10-year plan to transform Saint-Denis with 23 "concrete measures" in the areas of security, justice, education, healthcare and civic "attractiveness".
However, the choice of the site of the Olympic village has proved controversial. There have been protests against the demolition of properties in the construction area, including more than 20 businesses, three schools, a hotel, a student residence and apartments for foreign workers.
Boubacar Diallo, who represents foreign workers, told local media: "We have been here for 40 years and now there is no longer any space for us."
Solideo, the public company overseeing all the works, insisted the local area would get a boost. It said: "What is going to happen over the next three-to-four years is compensation for what has not happened the last 30 years."
The budget for the games amounts to €6.8bn, €1.5bn of which will come from the state.
Image: The former industrial suburb of Saint-Denis is best known for its basilica and the Stade de France (Hiroshi Tateishi/Dreamstime)