Paris - With five years to go before the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the first foreign delegations began a two-day Paris visit on Thursday to check out venues and possible base camps.
Organisers welcomed 72 representatives from 27 National Olympic Committees and 13 National Paralympic Committees including heavyweights such as Australia, Britain, China, Japan, Russia and United States, as well as minnows like Andorra, Central African Republic, Eritrea, Guatemala and Luxembourg.
On the agenda for Thursday and Friday are visits to some of the 2024 event venues and workshops, particularly on the subject of the Olympic village in the Seine-Saint-Denis department.
"They all have a lot of experience of Olympic villages and have something to offer us and it is important to create a relationship of trust now," Sophie Lorant, director of international relations at the local organising committee told AFP.
"Several competition sites already exist and they want to see them to imagine themselves there," Lorant added.
Major countries, such as the United States, which took 555 competitors to Rio in 2016, are already looking for sites where they could set up a multi-sport training base.
Some existing facilities have already been approached.
"Canada, Argentina, Colombia and the United States have already come to see us, and we have a new request from China," said Arnaud Zumaglia, head of a regional sports training centre in Eaubonne, in the Paris suburbs not far from Saint-Denis.
"The larger the countries, the more they are forced to plan in advance."
Local authorities have until the end of October 2019 to apply for a place among the "Games Preparation Centres" and hope to be included in the catalogue that the organising committee will make available to foreign delegations.
Organisers and the International Olympic Committee have set a rough cap of 10,500 athletes for the Olympic Games from July 26 to August 11, 2024, and 4,500 for the Paralympic Games, August 28 to September 8.
The Olympic Village, located in the northern Parisian municipalities of Saint-Denis, Saint-Ouen and Ile-Saint-Denis, is expected to have about 14,000 beds, down from the 17,000 initially planned.