Paris 2024 Olympics HQ searched in third consecutive Summer Games scandal

The Olympic rings are set up in Paris in 2017 a day after the official announcement that the 2024 Summer Olympic Games will be in the French capital. (AP Photo/Michel Euler, File)

PARIS — French police searched the Paris Olympic organizers’ headquarters on Tuesday as part of corruption investigations into contracts linked to the Games, according to prosecutors, the third straight time graft allegations have dogged a Summer Olympics.

The Paris organizing committee said in a statement that a search was carried out at its headquarters in the suburb of Saint-Denis and it was cooperating with investigators. It defended what it called “stringent procedures” around several hundred contracts it has awarded for the Games.

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Tuesday’s search and other related raids were linked to two preliminary investigations of the Paris Olympics, according to an official with the financial prosecutor’s office, who was not authorized to be publicly named according to office policy. One probe was opened in 2017 — the year Paris was picked by the International Olympic Committee as the 2024 host — and the other began last year.

Neither investigation had been made public until Tuesday.

Corruption allegations have hung over the world’s biggest sporting event many times — from accusations surrounding how the Games were awarded to how contracts for construction, sponsorship and team services were handed out.

Accusations of vote buying linked to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics and the Tokyo Games in 2021 led to the removal of several members of the IOC. Scandals around the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games led to reforms that limited IOC members’ contact with candidate countries, though did not entirely remove the scope for corruption.

But Paris 2024 had gone to lengths to prove it would be different. The biggest event France is hosting in decades, the Games are being billed as a celebration of openness after two Olympics closed off by the COVID-19 pandemic, and as an example of democratic celebration after two World Cups tainted by human rights concerns in Qatar and Russia.

The organizers and Paris city hall have stressed a spirit of transparency and social justice — including planning an opening ceremony outdoors along the Seine River that will be free for up to half a million people. The Games are scheduled for July 26-Aug. 11, 2024.

Saccage 2024, an anti-Olympics group that argues that the Games cause widespread ecological and social damage, said it was “very pleased” the raids took place.

“For us, an event of Olympic proportions cannot be held without corruption,” the group said in a statement. “It’s the size of the event that makes it necessary, whatever the country.”

The probe opened in 2017 is looking into suspected embezzlement of public funds and favoritism, and concerns about an unspecified contract reached by Paris organizers, the prosecutor’s office said.

The 2022 investigation followed an audit by the French Anti-corruption Agency.

The prosecutor’s office said that case targets suspected conflict of interest and favoritism involving several contracts reached by the organizing committee and Solideo, the public body in charge of Olympic infrastructure.

That body’s offices were also searched, prosecutors said. According to Le Monde newspaper, raids also took place at the headquarters of several companies and consultants linked to the organization of the Games.

Solideo oversees construction and renovation of more than 60 projects for the multibillion-dollar Olympics — including the athletes’ village in the Saint-Denis neighborhood that is set to provide about 2,000 housing units after the games.

Paris 2024 organizers would not comment on the contracts mentioned by prosecutors or the alleged wrongdoing.

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