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Olympics: Games won't solve our problems, lament Paris suburb residents

Olympics: Games won't solve our problems, lament Paris suburb residents
From Reuters - September 13, 2017

SAINT-DENIS, France (Reuters) - As French officials get ready to uncork the champagne to celebrate securing the 2024 Olympics, in Saint-Denis, the underprivileged district just north of Paris where much of the Games will be hosted, not everyone is preparing to party.

After three failed bids and the withdrawal of its chief rival Los Angeles, Paris is all but certain to be chosen to host the summer Games seven years from now when the announcement is made in Lima, Peru at around 1800 GMT (2.00 p.m. ET) on Wednesday.

All of France is behind #Paris2024, to welcome the world! Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, one of the leaders of Frances bid, said on Twitter. But a dozen kilometers north of her town hall, in Saint-Denis, some are not so sure.

Despite promises of jobs and better public transport for the small city that will host the opening and closing ceremonies, the athletes village and many sporting events, there is scepticism about any potential windfall.

It might be a good thing for those with enough money to buy tickets, and for bar owners nearby, but thats it, said Lucette Menage, 46, a local caregiver.

The Olympics wont solve our problems, they wont put an end to all the poverty in the banlieues, she said, referring to Paris poor outskirts.

Unemployment in Saint-Denis is at 23 percent, more than twice the national average. The city of 115,000, cut in half by a network of highways, is part of Frances poorest department, Seine-Saint-Denis.

MOST NEEDY

There has been long-standing criticism that hosting the Olympics -- while an honor and an opportunity for vast investment -- too often fails to benefit the most needy.

In Rio de Janeiro, in particular, favela residents were pushed out of their homes to make way for infrastructure for last years Games, while new transport networks mainly helped wealthier areas.

In the case of Barcelona, host of the 1992 Olympics, Christophe Lepetit, a sports economist, said the city benefited overall, but it meant the poorest were pushed out of some neighborhoods because they could no longer afford the rent.

Lepetit, who took part in a study on the impact of the Paris Olympics, expects the Games, whose total budget is estimated at 6.8 billion euros ($8.14 billion), to be a good thing for Saint-Denis, in particular because authorities will be obliged to stick to promises to build more metro lines.

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