It seems only yesterday that the flame went down in Tokyo at the end of the Olympic Games in that wonderful city. A few months of reflection on the part of all involved – athletes, coaches, officials, volunteers and organisers – and then it is time to look to the future. In this case, the future is in the beautiful city Paris.
It is two years until the action will be underway for the Olympic Games Paris 2024 hockey competition which takes place between 27 July and 9 August 2024 at Yves-du-Manoir Stadium.
The Yves-du-Manoir Stadium is steeped in Olympic history. It was 100 years ago in 1924 that the stadium itself played host to the opening ceremony and then provided the venue for eight disciplines.
France itself has a deep relationship with hockey as 2024 is also 100 years since the FIH was created in France by Paul Léautey, the first President of hockey’s world governing body.
To mark the start of the refurbishment of the stadium, on 11 May this year Paris 2024 President Tony Estanguet took part in the ceremony of laying the first stone of the Yves-du-Manoir Stadium.
The work is due to be completed in January 2024 and test events will take place ahead of the Games in May 2024.
The refurbished stadium will become the national centre for hockey and home to the French Hockey Federation.
Within the sport of hockey, which has featured for the first time at the Olympic Games in 1908, there is one person for whom the hockey competition in Paris is already filling every waking hour. Antoine Berger is the Hockey Manager for Paris 2024. He joined the organisation in January 2022.
‘Since I joined the adventure in January this year I have been mostly focused on the venue plans both for the games and the legacy aspect, making sure that the athletes’ and spectators’ needs are at the centre of all we do,’ he said.
‘All of this is always in a very collaborative relationship with the International Hockey Federation and with the French Hockey Federation (FFH). Of course this also means working on the competition schedule, the level of services for the athletes and everything linked to the competition aspect.’
Berger says his key focus is to push the conversation about hockey at every opportunity. He is working with the FFH to raise the profile of the sport across French communities.
National federations will be acutely aware of the major milestones between now and the opening ceremony, which is now exactly two years away.
Teams will have two opportunities to qualify: through the continental championships and then through the FIH Olympic Qualification Tournaments.
These events are as follows:
– The Oceania Cup (expected in April 2023)
– The African Road to Paris (expected in July/August 2023)
– The Euro Hockey Nation Championships in August 2023
– The Asian Games in September/October 2023
– The 19th Pan American Games in October 2023
These will be followed by the FIH Olympic Qualification tournaments
Not only has Berger gained an in-depth knowledge of the sport and its needs through his work with FIH but he also garnered much experience by working alongside the Tokyo Organising Committee for the previous Olympic Games. He was, he says, ‘humbled’ by the way the team in Japan overcame the challenges of the pandemic to put on such a spectacular hockey competition.
Both the French men’s and women’s teams will be participating in the Olympic Games Paris 2024, so the atmosphere in the stadium will be electric. Berger says there is a wave of excitement coursing through the majority of the French population at the prospect of a home Games.
‘It is hard to believe that we are already at two years to go,’ he says. ‘Overall the project is fantastic, with strong ambition and very strong values that are shared with hockey’s own values.
‘Our ambition is to bring people together, to show to the world the best of our culture, our inclusivity, our diversity. These are not only words, everything we do here at Paris 2024 is serving these ambitions and objectives. It is truly exciting and it also translates into results as two years ahead of the Games we are in line with our timeline and objectives and we are already supporting development and promotion of sport and an active lifestyle. We are also working on ensuring a strong legacy for sport infrastructure so we can bring more sport in the society.
‘This is the power of the Olympic Games and it is what makes it exceptional!’