France’s former football captain Zinedine Zidane has been introduced as the latest ambassador by Paris 2024 to promote its bid to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Zidane appeared in a video shown in Paris to coincide with the opening day of the IOC Evaluation Commission alongside former team-mate Laurent Blanc and Karim Benzema, another French international and who now plays for Real Madrid, the Spanish club Zidane coaches.
Also appearing alongside them is Tony Estanguet, the three-time Olympic canoeing champion, now co-chairman of Paris 2024. All four men are posing with their fingers in the shape of the Eiffel Tower, the symbol of Paris 2024, say French media reports.
Zidane, 44, had also backed Paris’ last bid for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, when they were beaten for 2012 by London.
More controversially, Zidane also supported Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup. “I was involved in several bids, but this one is really close to our hearts,” said Zidane.
Zidane was capped 108 times by France during a career of which the highlight was scoring twice in his country’s victory in the 1998 FIFA World Cup against Brazil at the Stade de France in Paris,
Meanwhile, IOC’s evaluation commission hailed the Paris 2024 bid presentation as ‘exceptional’ and ‘well detailed’ at the end of the opening day of a three-day visit to the French capital on Sunday.
“Our friends of Paris 2024 presented us with an exceptional and well-detailed bid presentation,” Patrick Baumann, chair of the commission, told a news conference. Baumann, however, was careful not to put Paris ahead or behind its only rival, Los Angeles, which was visited by the evaluation commission earlier this week.
The commission’s visit officially started on the day French president Emmanuel Macron, a fervent supporter of the Paris bid, took power.
An air of uncertainty has been hanging over the bidding process with the IOC considering a proposal that would mean the 2024 and 2028 Games both being awarded on Sept. 13 during a congress in Lima.
While Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti softened his stance on the subject this week by saying “any Olympic win is an Olympic win”, his Paris counterpart Anne Hidalgo on Sunday said that Paris was ready “right now”.
Pressed by the media on the matter, the Paris team and Baumann said only 2024 was being assessed.
“We are still in a process where we assess a potential candidacy for 2024,” said Baumann. “2024-2028 is not a matter of discussion.”
“We didn’t discuss at all the 2024-28 topic,” said Paris 2024 co-chair Tony Estanguet, who would head the Local Organising Committee (LOCOG) should the French capital be awarded the Games a century after it last hosted the sports extravaganza.
Paris unveiled another high-profile supporter in former France soccer great and Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane.
“I was involved in several bids but this one is really close to our hearts,” said Zidane, now a Paris 2024 ambassador.
Other additions to the list of official supporters were former France soccer coach Laurent Blanc and Real Madrid forward Karim Benzema.
The IOC evaluation team will be taken to almost all the potential Olympic venues on Monday before another day of discussions with the bid committee on Tuesday.