Paris 2024 Olympics: A Nation in Preparation
On an early morning in the center of Paris, France, apartment windows are open, letting a crisp autumn breeze fill the room. The tranquil sounds of commuters and school children passing on the street below greet you through the windows. Suddenly, a loud noise pierces through the rest: the noise of a jackhammer. This is the anthem of a nation preparing to host the world.
Games Wide Open
Since 2017, the world has known the 2024 Summer Olympics would be hosted in the vibrant city of Paris. Following the announcement of this honor, Paris and other cities across France, began the process of preparing for the games. But what exactly does it mean to prepare to be on the stage of a world event?
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) adopted the motto “Games Wide Open” to represent the intention behind the design of the games. Rather than building new facilities to host each sporting event, the IOC has adopted a model that utilizes iconic sites and cities across France. The hope is that this will create an immersive experience and leave a legacy moving forward. In the meantime, Parisians endure a great number of structural preparations.
With less than a year to the games, missionaries and ministers across Paris are doing likewise as they consider how to prepare to minister to such a large influx of people coming to the city. An event like the Olympic Games creates a unique opportunity to reach people with the gospel that we don’t have every day.
“Any major sporting event will inject a certain amount of excitement to the community,” says Tom Hawkins, a Greater Europe Mission worker in Paris. Hawkins partners with Go+ France, a Christian association with the goal of uniting around the passion of sport, leisure, and fitness. “In 2016 when the European football championships took place in France, churches and ministries had open doors to planning events that involved the community because of the environment that the sporting event created.”
Ministering during the Olympic games extends far past sports ministry or ministering out of a church building. Hawkins describes other events supported by Conseil National des Évangéliques de France (National Council of Evangelicals of France, or CNEF) as the nation prepares to open its doors to the world.
“Under the banner of Ensemble 2024, ministries interested in doing things before, during and after the games are growing in number,” reports Hawkins. “Festivals, art exhibits, events surrounding the 100th anniversary of Eric Liddell’s story,”—the subject of the film, Chariots of Fire—”even a Christian fashion show.”
Practical difficulties reveal ministry realities
Without a doubt, ideas and opportunities to reach people with the gospel abound during this exciting time. However, this does not come without its challenges.
“I imagine the biggest question we are all asking is the question of space,” says Doug Irwin, GEM missionary and church planter in the twelfth arrondissement of Paris. “Paris is already generally tight on space. Apartments are small, hotels are limited. I really don’t know where this city plans to host everyone. That can also make ministry hard.”
In addition to the limited space, the ability to conduct outreach and evangelism efforts during a massive global event may also be limited. Heightened attention around things like protests and demonstrations is also a concern for missionaries in Paris.
“To be perfectly honest, we don’t foresee massive evangelistic efforts taking place in Paris during the games due to the high level of security,” adds Hawkins.
Offering hope in the “Land of Play“
Despite the challenges that are brought by hosting the Olympics in a city like Paris, missionaries and ministers are hopeful.
“The Olympic committee is encouraging every town, village, and city to participate in Terre de Jeux, or ‘land of play’… In those locations the local church can offer its help in ways that usually aren’t available to us.”Tom Hawkins
“I think the Paralympics that follow in September will provide a unique and fun opportunity to reach people with the gospel,” says Irwin. As Parisians prepare to go back to work and school by the first of September, he believes “we may be able to see more ministry efforts at that time.”
Beyond Paris, other cities and regions of France will have an increased opportunity to host events and outreach efforts as the country adopts the sentiment of a “land of play”.
“The Olympic committee is encouraging every town, village, and city to participate in Terre de Jeux, or land of play, and almost 4000 have signed up,” notes Hawkins. “In those locations the local church can offer its help in ways that usually aren’t available to us.” Hawkins is hopeful that other areas of France will seize the opportunity to welcome and share the good news with visitors and locals, alike.
For more information on Ensemble 24 and other Paris ministry opportunities, contact [email protected].
About the author:
Emma Turner is a Storyteller with Greater Europe Mission in Paris, France. Emma joined GEM in 2019 and moved to Paris in 2022 to serve vulnerable women in an urban setting.