Paris plans to revamp the Champs-Elysées in green for the Olympics

Paris will revamp the famous Champs-Elysees ahead of the 2024 Olympics by planting trees and increasing pedestrian areas, officials in the French capital announced on Wednesday.

The French often call it “the most beautiful avenue in the world”, but activists complain that traffic and luxury shopping have made it a noisy and elite neighborhood shunned by ordinary Parisians.

“We must re-enchant the most famous avenue in the capital, which has lost much of its splendor over the past 30 years,” said the mayor of the 8th arrondissement of the capital, Jeanne d’Hauteserre, to the press.

“It’s a reduction in space for cars, to be clear, because that’s how we have to envision the city of the future,” said Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.

The plan is in line with the city leader’s other efforts to get cars out of Paris and make the city greener, a push that has divided residents with critics saying his policy is going too far too fast.

Later Wednesday, Paris police gave a less than enthusiastic response to Hidalgo’s plans, pointing out that the Champs-Elysees is a transport route under the jurisdiction of the French state.

In a tweet, the prefect of police indicated that he would “examine carefully” the proposals of the town hall.

His team pointed out that their boss had not received the proposals, adding that he “needs to be involved in the project”.

But supporters praised former presidential candidate Hidalgo’s efforts to reduce pollution and increase green space in the densely populated city that can become unbearable when increasingly frequent summer heat waves hit.

Around the Arc de Triomphe, perched at the top of the Champs-Elysées, it is planned to widen the pedestrian belt surrounding the monument.

And at the bottom of the 2 kilometer long avenue next to the Place de la Concorde, the “Re-enchanting the Champs-Elysées” plan will revamp the gardens.

“We are going to create one and a half hectares of green space and plant more than a hundred trees,” said Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Grégoire.

Paris will spend 26 million euros ($27.5 million) ahead of the Olympics on work that is expected to begin in a few weeks.

The terraces near the top of the avenue popular with tourists will also be reworked by Belgian designer Ramy Fischler, who will strive to “preserve the identity and personality” of the district, he said.

The Champs-Elysées was first laid out in 1670 but was renovated by Baron Haussmann, the architect behind the transformation of Paris under Napoleon III in the mid-19th century.

Over the centuries, the avenue has been the scene of the ups and downs of French history, hosting celebrations and commemorations as well as protests including the violent Yellow Vests movement.

It is also used as the route for the July 14 military parade, which celebrates the French republic and its armed forces on July 14, as well as the finishing point for the annual Tour de France cycling race.

Gymnastics legend Oksana Chusovitina has said she plans to bid for the ninth Olympic Games in 2024 in Paris, according to the Uzbek Olympic Committee.

“I thought about it well and decided that after the Asian Games, I would also prepare for the Paris 2024 Olympics,” replied the 46-year-old artistic gymnast when asked about the impact of postponing the Asian Games to 2022.

The 19th Asian Games, which were to be held in the Chinese city of Hangzhou from September 10 to 25, have been postponed due to COVID-19 concerns.

Chusovitina returned to competition earlier this year after a brief retirement. In the few months since her return, the eight-time Olympian has won two gold medals and a silver on vault in three International Gymnastics Federation World Cup events. Last weekend, the 1992 team gold medalist also won the vault title at the Uzbekistan national championships.

Naomi C. Amerson