Don't miss the event. In less than a year, from July 26, 2024, the Olympic and Paralympic Games will open in Paris. But well before this deadline, the capital and other cities of France host, from September 8 to October 28, a major international sporting event: the tenth edition of the Rugby World Cup.

This is the second time France has hosted the World Rugby Championship since its inception in 1987. The previous one dates back to 2007. It was jointly organised with Wales and Scotland.

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For the 2023 edition, nearly 600,000 foreign visitors are expected in France. Whether in stadiums during matches, in establishments that broadcast matches (bars, restaurants ...) or "rugby villages" set up in host cities, places of festivities should not be lacking.

"Dress rehearsal"

The Rugby World Cup should also be an opportunity to analyse possible loopholes of all kinds in view of hosting the Olympic Games. "We will be able to test how spectator flows and transport are managed," explains Carole Gomez, associate researcher at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (Iris), specializing in the geopolitics of sport, and author of the book "Geopolitics of rugby" (Editions Dunod, 2023). It will be looked at, analyzed, an event that will be the subject of different returns and improvements if necessary" in view of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

But a Rugby World Cup and the Games are two sporting competitions of very different natures. The World Rugby and the Olympic and Paralympic Games are certainly "two extremely important mega-sporting events, but really different," insists Carole Gomez.

The researcher takes the example of organization. There will be "a dissemination of the competition in nine cities for the Rugby World Cup, while it is mainly concentrated in the Paris region" for the Olympics. "It's not at all the same calendar, nor the same type of audience, and it will be important to take this into account," continues the specialist. Nor the same flow of visitors. If we estimate at 600,000 the number of foreign visitors for the world, it is in the millions for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Just like the France, Japan has already gone through this preparation when it "hosted the Rugby Union World Cup in 2019 before the Olympic and Paralympic Games" thereafter, recalls Carole Gomez. She said that one of the challenges of the 2019 World Cup was "to be a kind of 'dress rehearsal' for this great international competition".

Erasing the memory of the Champions League final

The French authorities, as well as sports fans, remember the management difficulties and scenes of chaos at the Stade de France on the occasion of the final of the Champions League, May 28, 2022. Nearly two months later, in a report, the Senate had pointed to a "chain of dysfunctions" and "failures in preparation".

In autumn 2022, the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, had already evoked the Rugby World Cup as "a dress rehearsal" for the Olympics, which will require the mobilization of "7,000 police and gendarmes per day".

A few months later, in April, the interministerial delegate for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games and major sporting events, Michel Cadot, had indicated, during a round table at the National Assembly on the organization of the Rugby World Cup, that "on security issues, on other subjects, it is to a certain extent a test, a test that must be passed".

Regarding the security means put in place, the Ministry of the Interior indicated at the end of July on its website that a "national strategic command center (CNCS) will be created specifically" for the Olympic Games and the Rugby World Cup. Placed under the leadership of Place Beauvau, this "temporary structure will be activated between September and October 2023 (Rugby World Cup) and then between May and September 2024 (torch relay, Olympic and Paralympic Games)."

On the number of police officers deployed, Europe 1 relayed information according to which up to 80% of police officers could be mobilized during the World Rugby. Contacted by France 24, the Ministry of the Interior said that Gérald Darmanin will hold a press conference Wednesday, September 6 at 9 am, during which he must detail the security device during the sporting event.

The national police has already indicated on "X" that it will be "mobilized in force" in the host cities "on the ground to ensure the safety of the public and players". It also relayed at the beginning of July on its website the laws and gestures to have during the competition with regard to the consumption of alcohol, drugs or even noise pollution.

Diplomatic outreach

For Carole Gomez, the France must "be able to organize the World Cup so that it participates in French sports diplomacy. To give a positive image of the country while performing on the sporting level." It is also for Paris to "stimulate a certain number of official and unofficial discussions and to show itself at the heart of the reactor of international sport".

Moreover, the organization of the event results from "a policy conducted by both the Ministry of Sports and that of Foreign Affairs to make sport a diplomatic issue," says the specialist. This characteristic was recalled by President Emmanuel Macron at the conference of ambassadors at the end of August. Referring to the Rugby World Cup, the head of state spoke of a "diplomatic event, an event of influence", during which "many leaders, especially from the southern hemisphere" will be in Paris.

The France should be expected by visitors and fans on two main points. On the quality of the show first. "Are we going to remember this competition with exceptional matches, turnarounds, performances? This is not the fault of the organizing committee or the organizing country," continues Carole Gomez. On its "reception capacities then, through the questions of fluidity, atmosphere, transport but also accessibility and visit of the country".

Strike action during the tournament

On the transport front, social movements are already announced in France and Île-de-France during the world championship. A strike notice has been filed by two RATP unions for September 8, the day the tournament began. "On the social front, the company has negotiated agreements to reward the exceptional contribution to this event of the employees concerned. Agreements have been concluded with drivers and station agents," explains the transport company – partner of the world – contacted by France 24.

However, the company wants to be reassuring. "To date, two unions (FO-RATP for station agents and UNSA Transport for maintenance workers) have filed a strike notice" during the World Cup, but "these will not be likely to disrupt the smooth running of the competition and its success".

A strike movement is also expected among air traffic controllers. A notice has been filed by the majority union of the profession: the SNCTA, for September 15, and for a period of 24 hours. Enough to disturb the sky of France, a week after the start of the tournament. In a statement published on its website, the national committee of the SNCTA "calls for mobilization in order to record the catching up of inflation and the establishment of mandatory annual negotiations".

So many challenges to overcome if the France wants to transform the trial.

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