A Normandy town has refused to have the Olympic torch pass through its streets, despite having previously been included as one of seven regional places set to receive the Paris 2024 beacon.
Évreux (Eure) was featured on the list announced by the Olympic Games Organising Committee in June, which also included Pont-Audemer, Bernay, Val-de-Reuil, Verneuil d’Avre et d’Iton, Gisors, and Vernon. The lighting ceremony of the official Olympic ‘cauldron’ is then set to take place.
‘A real source of pride’?
The decision is in sharp contrast to the initial response to other Eure towns being included on the list.
At the time, Alexandre Rassaërt, president of the Eure departmental council, said: “It's a real source of pride to see the Olympic flame pass through Eure. It's an opportunity to showcase our region and take part in a rare global event.”
Similarly, Pascal Lehongre, the department's vice-president in charge of sport, said: "[The list] respected our wish to cover the whole of the Eure from west to east.”
Costs ‘too onerous’
Yet, the cost of organising the torch’s passage through Évreux was estimated at €125,000, including first aid sites, private security, and the hire or purchase of 2,500 barriers to secure the 5.4 km route. This amount did not include the salaries of the agents involved, nor any of the communication costs.
Authorities from Évreux said that “when the town of Évreux was selected, no details were known”, and it was only after analysis done later that “major logistical, financial and security constraints” were revealed.
The town’s mayor, Guy Lefrand, then sent letters to the President of the Eure department, and to the person in charge of the torch relay at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games Organising Committee. He highlighted the “number of obligations required to ensure that this event is held successfully” and the “major repercussions on the [town’s] human, material, security and financial resources”.
These repercussions would be “too onerous for us to meet without outside support”, he said, adding that the cost had been re-estimated at €150,000.
He then concluded that the town “does not wish to maintain its presence in this scheme”, although he wished the event “great success”.
‘Sad for the people of Évreux’
The mayor’s reaction has sparked sadness.
Mr Rassaërt, Eure departmental council president, responded in his own letter: “The €150,000 you claim to have spent to justify this withdrawal seems to have been greatly overestimated.
“No other municipality in the Eure region has provided us with a similar estimate of expenditure, bearing in mind that a large part of the security resources deployed around the flame is paid for by the Organising Committee of the Olympic Games,” he said.
He added that he was “sad for all the people of Évreux who were looking forward to this historic event”, and said that the mayor’s decision was “a huge blow for a town whose image we are all trying to improve, and whose appeal we are all trying to enhance”.
Olympic flame route
The Olympic flame is set to travel all over France in an 80-day tour before arriving in Paris for the Olympic Opening Ceremony on July 26.
It will arrive in Marseille first on May 8, after travelling from Greece, and travel to all corners of the country. Cities on the itinerary include Toulon, Montpellier, Arles, Carcassonne, Toulouse, Pau, Rennes, Brest, Nice, Chamonix, Reims, Lille, Dijon, and Versailles.
It will also take a mid-June trip to the overseas cities of Cayenne (French Guiana), Saint-Denis (Réunion), Papeete (French Polynesia), Baie-Mahault (Guadeloupe), and Fort-de-France (Martinique).