Gilbert Ysern, general manager of the French Tennis Federation (FFT), has said the bid from Paris to stage the 2024 edition of the Olympic Games could help drive the stalled revamp of Roland Garros, the home of the French Open tennis grand slam that takes place in the city.
French Open organisers have been locked in a decade-long battle with residents living close to the tournament’s Parisian home over proposals to expand facilities at the site. Plans first announced in 2004 to cover the main court at Roland Garros were met with disapproval by local residents, as well as environmental groups and politicians.
Those opposed to the plans have also complained about the impact of construction of a 5,000-seat court by 2017 at the Serres d'Auteuil botanical garden, a site that has a large variety of tropical flowers. However, some residents, politicians and environmentalists have given their backing to an alternative project that features partial roofing of a nearby motorway where outside courts would be built.
Tournament organisers were given hope of moving forward with plans in March after the city’s council gave the go-ahead for a new study to take place into the proposed land use.
Ysern has now stated that such plans could be given a further push forward if Paris does decide to submit an official bid to stage the 2024 Olympic Games. The city is yet to officially announce whether it will enter the race, despite the city council last month voting in favour of a bid.
Ysern told the Bloomberg news agency an Olympic bid would be an “important leverage” for organisers of the French Open, with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) having stated its desire for host cities to have facilities already in place ahead of staging the Games.
“It is an important thing for Paris, to be able to show that they already have excellent facilities for different sports,” said Ysern, who also stated that he is “pretty optimistic” building permits to begin work on expansion projects will be awarded next month.
Despite Ysern’s optimism, some of the groups opposed to the plans have stated that they will continue their own efforts to halt such expansion. Alexandre Gady, president of Societe pour la Protection des Paysages et de l’Esthetique de la France, an association that protects heritage sites and monuments in France, said: “If they do manage to get the permits, we’ll attack it. It will take years.”
Gady also highlighted the level of opposition to the plans to build the new court in the Serres d'Auteuil botanical garden, with a petition against such proposals having collected more than 63,000 signatures. He added: “There is no space here. They have to force their way into someone else’s space.”