Paris Olympics announces scaled-down Opening Ceremony on the Seine River

(Courtesy Paris 2024)
(Courtesy Paris 2024)

The 2024 Paris Olympics will begin with a spectacular Opening Ceremony — athletes from all over the world floating down the Seine River before the many landmarks of the City of Light — but the event has been scaled down considerably because of logistical and security concerns.

The Opening Ceremony will begin at 7:30 p.m. Paris time on July 26, or 1:30 p.m. ET. The ceremony will take place as the sun sets on Paris and the city's lights come to life, with thousands of athletes proceeding down a six-kilometer (3.7-mile) route on open-air boats. Over the course of the ceremony, athletes will parade before Notre Dame, the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay before finishing near the Eiffel Tower.

While this Opening Ceremony will be the largest open-air event in Olympics history, it won't quite match the spectacle promised when the idea was announced. Initially, organizers had indicated that as many as 600,000 people would be permitted to line the riverbanks to watch the ceremony proceed by, free of charge.

But a range of protests and concerns have scuttled that idea. The security risks of a completely open-air, free-for-all-attendees ceremony, for both audience and athletes, are obvious. Local booksellers, a century-old fixture along the river, complained about the French government's plans to remove them from the route.

In February, organizers cut the permitted number of spectators to about 300,000, and this week, French officials said the number will be 104,000 along the lower riverbanks, and another 222,000 on the upper banks. Tickets will no longer be available to the general public, and will be invitation-only.

French officials said the country remains on high alert for terrorist activity at the Games, though no specific threats have yet been identified publicly. An estimated 45,000 security officers will be in place during the event, and all air traffic will be restricted within a 90-mile radius of Paris for the duration of the ceremony.