PARIS: France’s sports minister argued Wednesday that the 2024 Paris Olympics should not be a “scapegoat for all of our frustrations” while denying that plans to move homeless people out of the capital were linked to the games.
Reports emerged last week that the government had asked officials in regions around the country to prepare temporary facilities for the homeless from Paris in anticipation of an accommodation crunch in the capital.
The Games have also become embroiled in a row over ticket pricing, with the high cost of attending many events leading to criticism of organisers amid a cost-of-living crisis in France.
“I don’t want us to mix everything up,” Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera told the France 2 channel. “We do have major challenges over emergency shelter but it’s not the Olympics’ fault.”
She denied that the plans to move homeless people out of Paris were linked to the games.
“No. It’s something that was started in April. We shouldn’t make the Olympics the scapegoat of all of our frustrations. It’s important not to distort the facts and blame the Olympic Games for all the problems and difficulties of our society.”
Her government colleague, Housing Minister Olivier Klein, made a link between the Games and an expected shelter problem for the homeless in the capital during a speech to parliament on May 5.
Klein said that many budget hotels that usually provide space for the homeless were intending to rent their rooms at market rates to sports fans and holiday makers during the rugby World Cup in September and the Olympics starting next July.
The government estimates that hotel capacity available to accommodate the homeless “will fall by 3,000-4,000 places due to these events,” Klein told MPs.
The idea of creating new facilities around France to accommodate homeless people from Paris, many of whom are migrants, is already sparking concern in some areas.
The mayor of Bruz in northwest Brittany, Philippe Salmon, has voiced his opposition to plans for a new centre in his town of 18,000 people.
Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2023