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  • Liz Alderman

Going for Gold

The Paris Olympics promise to be stunning. The prices already are. By Liz Alderman.

Signs for the upcoming 2024 Olympics at Hotel de Ville in Paris, where many well-known monuments are being transformed into sports and entertainment venues. Photography by Joann Pai.

The opening ceremony of the 2024 Paris Olympics promises to be spectacular: on the glittering waters of the Seine, a flotilla of barges will carry about 10,000 athletes to the foot of the Eiffel Tower, as nearly 500,000 spectators line the six-kilometre route to cheer on the event of the century.


Good luck, though, getting any one of the 100,000 ticketed seats to be front and centre at the party. Those are mostly sold out — and the few left cost an eye-popping 2,700 euros (about $4,450) each. Tickets to watch another popular Olympic event, 10-metre men’s platform diving, are now only available through special-service hospitality packages starting at 875 euros, or women’s artistic gymnastics finals, a perennial crowd pleaser: around 1,799 euros.


Paris Olympics organisers set a lofty goal for what they have called the People’s Games, promising to make the world’s most iconic sporting event equitable and accessible.


But get ready to pay up.

Four months before the Olympic torch casts a glow in the City of Light this northern summer, the cost of getting into the most in-demand sports competitions, not to mention the price of accommodations and transportation, has risen — sometimes by Olympian proportions.


Many hotels and rental apartments have doubled or tripled their typical summer rates (think an average of 1,000 euros a night instead of 300 euros), and some have even quintupled them. Airfares are rising fast. The cost of a Paris Metro ticket is temporarily doubling. Even the Louvre Museum and Palace of Versailles have ratcheted up admission fees.


Still dreaming of making the Olympic rendezvous? Don’t be too discouraged if you haven’t booked yet. The Games, which run from July 26 to August 11, still have some ticket deals for large-crowd competitions like soccer and basketball. Spots also remain available for the Paralympics, from August 28 to September 8. And some prices could start to come down closer to the Games.


Paris will be its own extraordinary attraction, transformed into a giant outdoor arena with competitions like breakdancing at Place de la Concorde and beach volleyball at the Eiffel Tower. And President Emmanuel Macron will make cultural performances of all kinds free for two months to fete the Olympic spirit.


Still, exactly how you experience the Games will depend on your budget. Here are some tips on what to expect.


Photography by Février Photography/Unsplash.

Finding a Place to Stay

Paris is like a jewellery box: dazzling but compact. With about 15 million visitors expected and just around 85,000 guest rooms, hoteliers are taking full advantage of outsized demand. So are Parisians: many are planning to flee the city and are renting out their apartments at top dollar. Average Airbnb prices for Olympic dates have surpassed 500 euros a night.

At a typical Ibis hotel, prices had recently risen to 400–700 euros a night for a fairly basic double room with Wi-Fi and breakfast, compared with 90–200 euros normally. A double room at the more upscale Hotel Ducs de Bourgogne near the Pont Neuf was recently priced on Booking.com at 1,500 euros a night, compared with 300 euros normally in the northern summer.


Consumer associations, including UFC-Que Choisir, a French advocacy group, have denounced price increases that they say risk making the Olympics unaffordable to some. The French government has said it won’t regulate prices, but will step up inspections of hotels and apartment rentals. “It’s essential that French and international tourists get their money’s worth,” says Olivia Grégoire, the minister in charge of tourism.


With the Games still months away, travellers can find less expensive accommodation that averages closer to 450–550 euros a night, mainly at the outer edges of Paris or beyond the city limits, says Christie Hudson, a travel expert for Expedia.com. But even there, the average cost of a one-night stay in the Île-de-France region that rings Paris is about 700 euros during the Olympics, compared with 169 euros last northern summer, according to the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau.


That trend could reverse: some hotels haven’t released all their room inventory, and prices could come down as they seek to fill up their calendars. The downside of waiting is the risk of finding little available at the last minute — not ideal if you’ve already got your hands on event tickets or booked flights.


Airbnb prices for Olympic dates have already cooled a touch, with rates for all listings, including private and shared rooms, now averaging around 542 euros a night, after surging to 746 euros in December, according to AirDNA, which tracks Airbnb booking trends. Tens of thousands of new listings have come online around France, and more supply is expected in the Paris region, a factor that should keep prices “affordable”, says Emmanuel Marill, the Europe, Middle East and Africa regional director at Airbnb.


If money is no object, hospitality offers via the Paris Games’ official partner, On Location, guarantee booking through all-inclusive packages that include tickets to select sports events and accommodation in three-, four- and five-star hotels.


Travellers may need to watch out for sudden price jumps by hotels and rental hosts even after a booking is confirmed. Booking.com has said it would compensate consumers for the cost difference in such cases. Airbnb said that hosts who tried to increase prices or cancel reservations after booking would face fees and penalties, and that the company would provide most guests with an instant credit to rebook immediately if their stay was cancelled within 30 days of arrival.


Paris 2024 organisers are dedicated to slashing the Games’ carbon footprint, and the city has added some 90 kilometres of cycle lanes to complement an expanded bike rental scheme. Photography by Travel Blog/Pexels.
Scoring Tickets to Events 

If you’ve already bagged reasonably priced tickets, count yourself lucky. About 7 million have been purchased since sales began nearly a year ago on the official Paris 2024 ticketing website. But you can still get into a variety of events, especially team sports at venues outside Paris, including, at the time of writing, soccer at the 80,700-seat stadium in St-Denis. Tickets priced 90–250 euros also remain for volleyball, handball, archery, badminton and weightlifting, mostly for non-medal competitions.


But blockbuster sports have become all but inaccessible, unless you are willing to splurge. Tickets to events like gymnastics and diving are currently unavailable on the official website. Prices topped 600 euros before the blocks that had been made available sold out.


Tony Estanguet, president of the Paris 2024 organising committee, has defended prices and says that tickets are cheaper than those of the 2012 London Olympics.Bundles of new tickets are released every so often, and organisers urge visitors to check the website frequently or sign up for alerts. More spots will become available on April 17, when the official, and only authorised, resale platform for ticket holders goes online.


At this stage, though, much of the only remaining access to very high-demand events is through On Location’s pricey “hospitality packages”, with options like men’s springboard diving tickets starting at 295 euros and opening ceremony access ranging from 5,000 to 9,500 euros per person. On Location offers a “wide variety” of packages, says Will Whiston, the company’s executive vice-president for Olympics and Paralympics, adding that its prices were “in line with and, in some cases, lower than previous Games”.


Getting There and Around

Round-trip airfares to Paris are starting to creep up. Generally, travellers can get the best price by booking 60 days out. But “prices are expected to increase as the travel dates get closer, so it’s smart to book sooner rather than later,” says Hudson, the travel expert at Expedia. One option is to fly into an alternative airport, either in France or a nearby country like Belgium, Britain or Germany, and take a train.


Photography by Margerretta/Pexels.

Once in Paris, brace yourself for getting around. Olympics organisers want to slash the Games’ carbon footprint, and swathes of the city will be closed to cars. Organisers are placing a premium on walking, cycling and public transportation.


While Metro prices are jumping to 4 euros per ride, tourists can buy a Paris 2024 pass costing 16 euros a day, or 70 euros per week, allowing travel across the Île-de-France region, including to and from Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports.


Paris has added about 90 kilometres of new cycling lanes to the more than 435 kilometres already carved out in the city, encouraging visitors to use them. The Velib rental program is being expanded to add 3,000 more bikes to the current 22,000-strong fleet.


Despite all the potential hassles, Estanguet, the head of the organising committee, promises that the Games will be worth the trip. “Let me convince you to come, because this moment is unique,” he says. “You won’t see it again, and you won’t be disappointed.” 


© The New York Times


This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our eleventh edition, Page 156 of Winning Magazine with the headline: “Going for Gold”. Subscribe to Winning Magazine today.  

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