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Paris 2024: start of controversy around a Saudi Olympic village project at Les Invalides

The installation for four months of a Saudi Olympic village at Les Invalides, an emblematic place for the French armies in Paris, is being studied and is arousing opposition from right-wing deputies who have challenged the government.

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Paris 2024: start of controversy around a Saudi Olympic village project at Les Invalides

The installation for four months of a Saudi Olympic village at Les Invalides, an emblematic place for the French armies in Paris, is being studied and is arousing opposition from right-wing deputies who have challenged the government. “There is a project that has been submitted. Many countries are looking for places for their country's delegations and athletes. The decision has not yet been made. Saudi Arabia has agreed to respect the security and financing measures of the Invalides, the army museum,” declared Minister of the Armed Forces Sébastien Lecornu while traveling in the south-west of France.

Affirming that Riyadh was an “important defense partner,” the minister called for “looking sympathetically at Saudi demand which could lead to patrons.” This project is contested on the right by the LR deputy Nathalie Serre, member of the Defense committee at the National Assembly, according to whom this village could be installed from May 10 in the grounds of the Hôtel national des Invalides, possibly at near the military necropolis where Napoleon rests. “Saudi Arabia poses a specific problem regarding respect for human rights, but if it were a Danish or Canadian village, the problem would have been the same,” she explains to AFP. “There are things that cannot be sold or converted into cash and the Invalides, in my opinion, are one of them.”

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According to the MP, it is not abnormal that a museum can be rented for a private event but it is different when a foreign state is involved in the project. “Whether you bring a Chanel show, it remains private but it doesn't last four months and we don't appropriate anything except the beauty of the place. There, we talk about the values ​​of the Republic,” she assures. Earlier in the day, the Ministry of the Armed Forces had indicated to AFP that the Saudis had not yet accepted the “very strict conditions” aimed at “ensuring the security of the site, the solemnity of the place, the tranquility residents of the National Institute of Invalides (INI) which houses war wounded and veterans.

The ministry had also assured that “the compensation for making it available” would be donated to the Army Museum and the INI. Questioned on the subject on Wednesday during questions to the government, Secretary of State for Veterans Affairs Patricia Mirallès remained evasive, assuring that “no agreement” had been concluded. The Hôtel des Invalides houses the Army Museum, Napoleon's tomb and the Museum of the Order of the Liberation.

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