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La Seine Olympique © Paris 2024 - Florian Hulleu
La Seine Olympique © Paris 2024 - Florian Hulleu

Paris 2024 Olympics opening ceremony: everything you need to know

The start of Paris 2024 is set to be epic. Here’s our comprehensive guide to the Olympic opening ceremony

Alix Leridon
Written by
Alix Leridon
Tristan Parker

The opening ceremony of the Paris Olympics will plunge the capital into an Olympic frenzy, which will then dominate daily life for over 15 days. The aim is to break conventions and boundaries by organising the largest Olympic ceremony in history, not just confined to a stadium but moving through the city. Creative maverick Thomas Jolly is masterminding the show, and it promises to be a real adventure. Let’s go through it step-by-step.

When is the Paris Olympics opening ceremony?

The opening ceremony takes place on July 26 2024.

What time will it start?

The ceremony kicks off at 8.24pm, which just happens to be 20.24 if you’re using the 24-hour clock. See what they’ve done there?

Where is the ceremony held? 

Probably not where you’re expecting. The Paris 2024 opening ceremony will take place outdoors, along the banks of the River Seine and even through its waters. Its the first time in the history of the Summer Games that an opening ceremony hasn’t been hosted in a stadium, which hugely increases the potential audience capacity.

What activities are planned during the event?

The plan is for spectators to spread along a six-kilometre route, starting with a river crossing on the Seine before settling at the Trocadéro, opposite the Eiffel Tower. So yes, it’s going to be ambitious.

Spectacle aérien © Paris 2024 - Florian Hulleu - A.G. Photographe
Spectacle aérien © Paris 2024 - Florian Hulleu - A.G. Photographe

The party begins on the River Seine at sunset. Around 10,500 athletes from different national delegations will gather on boats, organised by countries. As tradition dictates, the Greeks will lead the way, starting the journey from the Pont d’Austerlitz to the Pont d’Iéna. From here, the Trocadéro esplanade awaits the 116 boats and their passengers for a grand finale facing the Eiffel Tower. This section is scheduled to begin at 11.50pm: the expected arrival time of the French boat, the last in the convoy.

Besides the national anthems, official speeches and symbolic releasing of doves, it’s often the artistic performances that stand out the most at Olympic opening ceremonies. At the London 2012 Games, ‘Trainspotting’ director Danny Boyle treated audiences to, among other things, an action-packed short film featuring Daniel Craig and the late Queen Elizabeth II. Expect similarly impressive things during the Paris 2024 ceremony and its finale.

Initially, there was talk of 600,000 spectators, but for safety and logistical reasons (especially given the city’s transportation network, which sometimes struggles to cope under normal circumstances), that number is likely to be reduced. Previous ceremonies have always been held in stadiums with a capacity of less than 100,000 spectators (there were 78,000 people in Rio’s 2016 opening ceremony). 

Who is directing the opening ceremony?

Renowned stage director Thomas Jolly has been appointed as the artistic director of the various ceremonies taking place during Paris 2024. A seasoned artist behind the success of the revived ‘Starmania’ musical, as well as numerous acclaimed plays and operas, Jolly is an avid lover of Shakespearean epics and their blend of tragedy and grotesque elements, and has proven his ability to breathe new life into ancient texts. For the writing of the opening ceremony, he has surrounded himself with authors and historians, aiming to bring back a sense of ‘simplicity’ to the event, despite the ambitious nature of the project.

Danseur sur les toits © Paris 2024 - Florian Hulleu - A.G. Photographe
Danseur sur les toits © Paris 2024 - Florian Hulleu - A.G. Photographe

Who will be performing?

The ceremony promises to be a varied spectacle, blending theatre, dance, circus and opera, divided into different segments woven together through multiple stories. One of these stories will focus on France’s ever-enchanting capital, with its numerous iconic monuments brought to life throughout the journey. But that’s not all; the director has also incorporated stories of people living and working near the river, giving the show a touch of local charm.

Are tickets for the ceremony open to the public?

They are indeed, as 100,000 tickets were put on sale in May 2023, with prices ranging from €90 to a staggering €2,700. Only those who had previously registered and were selected by lottery had the chance to buy those tickets, which corresponded to seating areas set up along the lower quays of the Seine and around the Trocadéro.

But don’t despair if you didn’t snap up one of those 100,000 first-release Paris 2024 opening ceremony tickets. Between 300,000 and 500,000 free tickets will be made available for the seating areas set up along the upper quays of the Seine. Who gets these? For now, that’s something of a mystery, as the details on how and when the free tickets will be released are still under wraps.

And of course, if you don’t catch the ceremony in person, you can always watch the whole thing on TV.

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