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Macron to inaugurate Olympic village in a disadvantaged area transformed for Paris Games

PARIS (AP) — When French President Emmanuel Macron inaugurates the Olympic village on Thursday, he will see a formerly run-down area transformed into an international hub for the Paris Games.

The village sits in the suburb of Saint-Denis, known in the sports world as the home to the Stade de France where France's national soccer and rugby teams play. But the area itself is one of France's poorest, and it saw rioting last year after a police officer fatally shot a teenager of north African descent in another Paris suburb.

The July 26-Aug. 11 Paris Games and the Aug. 28-Sept. 8 Paralympics that follow may help raise prospects and leave a lasting legacy — for locals and for the environment.

Building the eco-friendly village led to nearly 2,000 jobs being created, with 1,136 going to local residents.

It will be Macron’s first visit to the site since October 2021. Thursday's inauguration sees the construction company of Paris Olympic venues, Solideo, handing over the village keys to Paris Games organizers.

The village cost about 2 billion euros ($2.2 billion), most of it investment by property developers but also including 646 million euros ($700 million) from public funds.

Here’s a look at some of the village's key aspects.

ACCOMMODATION

More than 14,000 athletes and officials will lodge here for the Olympics and 9,000 for the Paralympics.

A total of 45,000 keys will be handed over on March 1 and athletes start arriving on July 12.

There will be five residential areas, each named after a well-known area of Paris: Abbesses, Bastille, Dauphine, Étoile, Fêtes.

Apartments vary in size but hold a maximum of eight people, with two people per room and one bathroom per four people.

Beds are made from cardboard yet can withstand a maximum weight of 250 kilograms (around 550 pounds).

They were designed for the Tokyo Games, and village director Laurent Michaud says they will be recycled after the Paris Games to “give them another life.”

The raised height of the beds also helps Paralympians.

“The people in wheelchairs can actually make the transfer from the wheelchair to the bed quite easily,” Michaud told The AP. “Same thing for the accessibility of the nightstand and the height of the electric plugs, (which are) higher than usual.”

As a bonus, athletes can keep their reversible duvet: blue side for the Olympics, green for the Paralympics.

THE WORLD'S COMING TO EAT

How to feed so many athletes from so many places at all hours?

Well, the main dining hall is open 24/7, seats 3,260 people and serves 40,000 meals daily.

Executive chef Charles Guilloy calls it “welcoming the world to our table.”

French and Asian cuisine, as well as Caribbean and African food, are catered for, along with other options.

“The restaurant is where the heart of the village is,” Guilloy told The AP. “It’s also a real place for sharing, and cooking is a moment of sharing.”

There is another, smaller restaurant located on L’Île-Saint-Denis, which also houses athletes and is linked by a bridge.

CONSTRUCTION WORK

Since construction began a little more than three years ago, there have been 28 serious injuries to laborers across all of the Olympic sites with no fatalities, Solideo's chief operating officer Yann Krysinski said.

“Of course, that's way too many, but that's a lot less than we expected according to the statistics of the field," Krysinski told The AP on site. “We met with the CEOs of all the construction companies to make sure they would provide the safest conditions possible.”

LEGACY AND ENVIRONMENT

Reducing the carbon footprint was a goal in choosing to use natural materials and resources.

“Most of the buildings have either the structure or the flooring made out of wood," Krysinski said.

Naturally cold water from 70 meters deep will be circulated in the flooring of the buildings to reduce the temperature in the apartments — most welcome in stifling August heat, and especially with no air conditioning due to environmental concerns.

After both the Games, 6,000 people will use the apartments in a new residential area. It will feature two schools, an anti-noise wall to shield it from a busy highway, bike lanes to Paris, and a new bridge crossing the Seine River.

Office space will also be used by 6,000 workers.

KEEPING IN SHAPE

To help burn off excess calories from the giant canteen, a main fitness center holds more than 350 machines and two saunas, which can also help athletes control their weight.

There will be seven other training sites dedicated to specific disciplines like weightlifting, modern pentathlon, fencing and wheelchair basketball.

There’s also an onsite hospital and an anti-doping center.

To get around the village, 200 bikes are available as well as electric shuttles.

At a multi-purpose meeting point called Village Plaza, athletes can get a coffee, a haircut, shop for groceries, post a letter, withdraw cash, or watch the Games live on a giant screen.

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Associated Press writer John Leicester in Paris contributed to this report.

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AP coverage of the Paris Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games

Jerome Pugmire, The Associated Press