This summer, it will be the site of the exploits of pole vaulter Armand Duplantis or sprinter Sha'Carri Richardson, under the eye of cameras from around the world. But for the moment, only backhoe loaders are treading the Stade de France track.
Closed to major events since the fiery final of the Rugby World Cup at the end of October, the Saint-Denis stadium will only reopen its doors to crowds for the Paris Olympic Games (July 26-August 11).
An unprecedented break to allow the largest sports venue in France a major facelift.
In the gigantism of the stands with 80,000 empty seats, the workers at work in the middle of the arena under renovation are like miniature figurines. At the top of the stands, giant ephemeral screens the size of a tennis court are hoisted on scaffolding to double the available screen space.
For the Stade de France, the work in this first half of 2024 constitutes the last sprint in a long-distance race to adapt the cenacle of the 1998 Football World Cup to the very specific and specific needs of the Olympic Games, awarded in 2017 to France .
“The Olympics accelerated this renovation which was necessary on certain organs but which would perhaps not have been carried out at this time if there had not been the Olympics,” Fabrice Reigner told AFP, head of the stadium project management department.
The project began in 2020, taking advantage of the forced closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Six refreshment bars for the general public have been added, the command post renovated, and the sports and architectural lighting modernized.
In the summer of 2021, the two permanent screens, one in the north bend, the other in the south bend, were replaced by new generation screens, larger by around fifty square meters but above all benefiting from new technology and better definition.
Discreetly nestled under the roof, white spheres installed by the operator Orange now provide the Stadium with 5G coverage, in addition to that already existing in 3G-4G. The stands are undergoing a thorough cleaning.
The Stade de France has also fundamentally changed its power supply. For the purposes of power stability, the establishment relied for its major events on the energy produced by generators powered by diesel.
Thanks to the creation of a second power source connected to the network, it will only operate on “city” electricity.
“It’s going to be a clean Games. We will stop operating on generators, we will only use them in case of ultimate emergency. We will only operate on renewable energy,” says Fabrice Reigner.
The private consortium which manages the Stade de France, owned by the State, does not communicate a total amount for all the renovation work. A large part is paid by Solideo, the public group responsible for ensuring the delivery of Olympic infrastructure.
The most sensitive work takes place in the center of the stadium, in the “FOP” – “Field of play” in Olympic jargon.
The old ocher athletics track was cleaned and removed to make way for a new track of 14,000 m2, purple in color, which will be laid in the spring. High-precision work that requires the use of lasers and 3D graders.
“The mix of asphalt and surfacing is within the millimeter to be classified type 1 at the World Athletics (International Athletics Federation, editor's note). It’s not a standard track, it’s the highest category,” Maria Le Corre, responsible for renovating the track, told AFP.
The track was widened to nine lanes for running, up from eight previously, in order to leave the inner lane potentially unoccupied. The latter is considered the most unfavorable for athletes, who benefit from less momentum.
For reasons of fluidity and television production, the layout of the different areas (pole vault, long jump, triple jump, etc.) has also been redesigned in a “Tetris game”.
Handover of keys to the Paris-2024 organizing committee on June 1.