Paris 2024 Olympic Aquatics Centre – for the neighbourhood, for the long term

Paris 2024

April 6, 2024

The Paris 2024 Olympic Aquatics Centre, inaugurated yesterday in the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron and Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet, is fast becoming a symbol of Paris 2024’s vision of hosting more responsible, more inclusive and more sustainable Olympic Games.

Giant solar farm

A poster child for sustainable construction, the Aquatics Centre is a flagship project in France’s drive for all new public buildings to use 50 per cent wood or other bio-materials.

Linked by a striking 18-metre-wide footbridge to the famous Stade de France, it boasts the biggest hanging roof in the world made entirely from wood. On this sits a giant 5,000m2 solar farm, which will provide enough energy for the entire building. Inside, all the furniture in the restaurants, bars and entrances is made from wood waste from the construction site and other nearby demolition sites. All the spectator seats are newly designed and made of 100 per cent recycled plastic collected from schools in Saint-Denis.

“We wanted to use the least amount of material possible, and using wood means we don’t have to use drywall or other fixes used in construction to hide structural elements,” says Laure Mériaud of architects Ateliers 2/3/4/, who co-designed the venue.

In another first, the thousands of different timber elements – spruce from Finland for the interior, French-grown Douglas fir for the outside – were sawn to size in Alsace, then transported to Paris for final assembly on site in a process likened to building a giant Lego set. “We chose to use wood not only for its technical quality, but also because it is very stable and will last for a hundred years,” explains co-designer Cécilia Gross, Architect Partner-Director at VenhoevenCS.

A world-class neighbourhood hub

The Paris 2024 Aquatics Centre is undoubtedly a triumph and a fitting showcase for one of the Games’ premier events. Ultimately, however, it is the people of Saint-Denis and other neighbourhoods who will benefit.

In line with the IOC’s Olympic Agenda 2020, which requires hosts to prioritise existing and temporary venues, and consider building new ones only if they significantly contribute to the needs of the local population, 95 per cent of the Paris 2024 venues are existing or temporary. The Aquatics Centre is at the heart of the Paris 2024 vision to place any new constructions where they are really needed.

Besides building with an ultra-low carbon footprint, the Paris 2024 objective is to help regenerate the district of Saint-Denis, an area facing longstanding economic and social challenges and a shortage of aquatic infrastructure, and where half of 11-year-olds do not know how to swim.

After the Games, the 6,000-seat centre will be converted into a neighbourhood sports centre due to open in summer 2025, equipped with 2,500 seats plus a learner pool, fitness centre, bouldering wall, climbing gym, five-a-side football pitches, and padel tennis, basketball and yoga facilities. The concept brings together aquatic sports, urban sports, elite sports and leisure sports, both inside and outside the building.

In total, the Olympic Games Paris 2024 have accelerated the construction and renovation of 25 pools across Ile de France, including 18 in Seine-Saint-Denis. Between 2021 and 2023, 26,000 children – including 9,400 in Seine-Saint-Denis itself – benefitted from the Paris 2024-led 1,2,3 Swim programme, which recruited qualified trainers and provided free swimming and water safety lessons for people of all ages.

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