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Paris Olympic budget issues could force cuts, says government report

The 2024 Paris Olympics are coming in significantly over budget because of an “incomprehensible lack of understanding of the complexity of the IOC’s specifications”, France’s Court of Audit has found.

The court’s latest report, which was sent to AFP on Wednesday, said the Paris bid committee “underestimated” the costs of staging the Games at the time of the bid and warned that cuts might be needed before next summer.

“Further measures to reduce service levels will be required to ensure final budgetary equilibrium,” said the report adding that “substantial uncertainties remain concerning the final level of resources.”

The report also highlighted difficulty securing enough bids from private security firms, sponsorship shortfalls, the difficulty in working out total costs and delays in finishing construction, particularly of transport infrastructure. 

The budget for the organising committee, known as Cojo, around 3.3 billion euros at the time of the succesful bid in 2017, rose to 4.4 billion euros by the end of 2022.

The report estimated that “two-thirds” of the increase “resulted not from management drift or ill-considered changes to the project, but from an obvious underestimation of the bid budget and an incomprehensible lack of understanding of the complexity of the IOC’s (International Olympic Committee) specifications”. 

The report said budget revisions for 2022, by an extra 400 million euros, partly due to inflation, “were carried out transparently and rigorously” by Cojo. 

The report comes just after French authorities carried out a series of raids on Cojo, Solideo, the body in charge of the Olympic construction sites, and other companies with ties to the Games.

A source close to the case told AFP that the searches on Tuesday and Wednesday, were part of two preliminary investigations by the French National Financial Prosecutor’s Office into the contracts awarded for the Paris Olympics. 

Meanwhile, the audit report said it was concerned over local sponsorship deals, which are budgeted to bring Cojo 1.24 billion euros. 

Some “337.2 million euros remain to be secured, which means it is imperative to conclude the partnership with (French luxury giant) LVMH, announced for 140 million but still not signed,” said the report. 

The report reiterated a request that “all costs” be “consolidated” because it was impossible to establish a clear total bill. 

The court also expressed concern at the failure of Cojo to attract enough bidders for private security contracts.

Despite “the combined efforts of the Cojo, the State and the professional sector, there is a real risk that several calls for tender will remain unsuccessful,” it said.

The report added that “the now-probable recourse to internal security forces and the armed forces to make up for this shortfall must therefore be anticipated.”

The report also fretted about failure to complete metro train improvements and extensions on time as well as continuing issues afflicting public transport in the region. 

“These infrastructure projects remain essential to ensure the smooth flow of traffic during the Games”, said the report.

The report also urged Solideo to take “reinforcement measures” to ensure the completion of “certain structures affected by delays” such as the athletes’ village, media village, and at least one arena. 

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