A city of projects:  Grand Paris, the 2024 Summer Olympics, and the jurisdictional negotiation of contemporary Paris

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Virginia Tech

Paris' successful bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics arises in the midst of a grand rethinking of the politics of regional and local development in the Île-de-France region. The emerging ambition to advance a metropolitan model is fundamentally hindered by a historically persistent and burdensome institutional puzzle. Contravening the consensual political dogma that such intricate structure demands to be simplified, initiatives of metropolization prompted the establishment of a new administrative layer, the Métropole du Grand Paris (MGP). By advocating dynamics of cooperation, the MGP is the institutional manifestation of a State-led ambition to reinvent a detrimental power mosaic in the region. But limited resources, expertise, and jurisdictional authority prevent it from asserting relevance within the metropolitan conversation. Yet, the Olympic project provides the MGP with a compelling opportunity to manifest crucial competence and to significantly mature its authoritative influence. In this thesis, we explore the blending of the Grand Paris regional development project and the Olympic ambition by investigating the role of the 2024 Summer Olympics in the establishment of an ambitious yet fragile metropolitan model. We use key informant interviews and secondary sources such as news articles, bid books, and official documents to interrogate the way France is tackling, in the 21st century, the challenges of metropolization. Our evidence suggests that Paris as a city of projects fundamentally corresponds to a ground for experimentation that puts institutions and infrastructure at the forefront of discussions. It appears clear that the Games correspond to a grand excuse to legitimize investments in ongoing projects (specifically the Grand Paris Express) and to consolidate State-led spatial reforms with little risk of dissension. The 2024 Summer Olympics are the State's cautious means to inquire the feasibility of a grand ambition without committing to an overhaul of the jurisdictional structure of metropolization.

French governance, mega events, regional development, metropolization