Paris Under Construction

Paris, the City of Love, is enshrouded in scaffolding. Nearly every Parisian monument or landmark has become a site for the upcoming Summer Olympics, obscured by walls and barbed wire fences that post “Under Conservation and Restoration.” The bottom of the Eiffel Tower is completely fenced off and only the outside has received a new coat of paint. The project of repainting was championed by fifty painters and was subsequently abandoned given the inadequate time frame. Signs were posted outside the tower warning tourists of lead exposure as they stripped back over half a century of old paint. The Champ de Mars has been transformed into a stadium. The Gardens of Versailles are under renovation. The Trocadero, which is considered the best spot for pictures with the Eiffel Tower, has been repurposed and filled with bleachers for spectators. Sidewalks and roads are closed and fenced. Paris’ largest square, la Place de la Concorde is completely cordoned off to the public and the metropolitan no longer stops at the station. 

View of the Trocadero from the Eiffel Tower, which has been turned into seating for spectators. Credit: Sam Chancey

The Notre Dame Cathedral, still under construction from the 2019 fire. Credit: Sam Chancey


This is all a part of the city’s lofty goal to halve Olympic emissions for the games in Paris. Rather than construct new places to hold the games, Paris has decided to renovate already existing structures to save on emissions. They also constructed the Olympic Village from wood and traded air conditioning for a cooling system that relies on groundwater. According to The New York Times, some Olympic teams are considering bringing their own air conditioning. The sheer degree of construction occurring in the city just two months before the games begs the question of whether it will all be finished in time. 

The Seine River from the Eiffel Tower. Credit: Sam Chancey

Parisians have other concerns, though. The Olympic Village is being built in Saint-Denis, one of the most impoverished suburbs of Paris. Citizens are complaining of unsafe levels of air emissions and the gentrification of Saint-Denis, resulting in the forced removal of low income residents. Many are comparing it to what happened in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. In spite of this, there are some positives to the massive preparations for the Olympics.  The Seine River was cleaned so that it is safe for swimming for the first time in over 100 years. Rats, bedbugs, and other pests are being removed to keep the city clean. During my time in Paris, I did not see a single rat, despite being promised that there would be some fuzzy friends. Monuments, statues, and buildings are being renovated, polished, or shined. In spite of vast improvements to the city, Paris under construction has been a frustrating and bizarre experience as a traveler. Though I was only in Paris for a couple days, I can only imagine the impact this has had on the daily lives of Parisians.

View of one of the Olympic stadiums from the Eiffel Tower. Credit: Sam Chancey

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