Hosting a successful European Championship for soccer fans in June and July would provide further proof that France could stage a safe Olympic Games in Paris in 2024, French Olympic Committee president Denis Masseglia said Wednesday.
Paris is looking to host the games for the first time since 1924 and is competing against Rome, Los Angeles, and Budapest, Hungary. The International Olympic Committee will choose the host in September 2017.
France remains on high security alert following the November attacks in Paris that killed 130 people and injured hundreds more. All eyes will now be on the Euro 2016 tournament — which is taking place across 10 cities from June 10-July 10.
Stade de France — the national stadium where suicide bombers blew themselves up just outside during France's friendly match against Germany on Nov. 13 — hosts the opening match and the final.
Since the attacks, Paris has successfully hosted the marathon earlier this month and three Six Nations rugby matches at Stade de France, with all the events passing off without any incident amid heightened security measures.
"It's important to prove that our system — to guarantee everybody's security — is the best system, and the Paris marathon was a success," said Masseglia, who was speaking at an event to mark 100 days until the start of the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
"We hope that for the European Championship it will be the same. But it's not because you succeed in one event that you don't have to be careful at the next. We will live a long time with the worry about security and safety."
Dozens of French athletes, among them Olympic judo champion Teddy Riner, attended Wednesday's event held at the landmark Trocadero against the backdrop of the Eiffel Tower.
Paris failed with bids for 1992, 2008, and also 2012 — where it was the heavy favorite before being beaten by London in a dramatic swing of fortune when the winner was announced in July, 2005.
Today, the mood among the Paris 2024 camp is cautiously optimistic and Masseglia says the lessons of the failed 2012 bid have been learned.
"A lot of people who are in the 2024 organization were in Singapore in 2005, and all remember what happened," Masseglia said. "The stakeholders agreed that it was in the interest of the bid to have leaders who came from sports. With Bernard Lapasset, with Guy Drut, with Tony Estanguet, we have a history with sport and the Olympic movement."
Lapasset is the chairman of World Rugby and a former president of the French Rugby Federation; Drut won the 110-meter hurdles at the 1976 Games in Montreal and Estanguet is a three-time Olympic canoe slalom champion.
The Paris bid is keen to involve athletes more and one way of showing this is to let them elect their own flag bearer for the Aug. 5-21 Games in Rio.
"The athletes are at the heart of our bid. So it was logical for the French Olympic Committee to ask the athletes to vote," Masseglia said. "We have asked every federation to nominate two athletes and with 26 federations, you have 52 athletes. They will vote for who will be the flag bearer."
That decision is expected in July, and basketball star Tony Parker has expressed his desire to carry the flag — but Riner is also desperate to do so.
"For me the Olympic Games is a big dream, I don't have the words to describe it," said Riner, an eight-time world champion who will be competing in his third games. "I want to carry the flag, because this is a unique moment."
His other burning desire, aside from defending his Olympic title, is for Paris to win the vote for 2024 — thus wiping away his bitter memories of the failed bid for 2012.
"When the decision came, my heart was bleeding," the 27-year-old Riner said. "Paris 2024 would be good for the future, for the young people. It's very important for my country."