purple color, crushed mussel shells… The secrets of the new athletics track at the Stade de France for the Olympics – Libération

The emblematic Saint-Denis stadium has been given a makeover to host the athletics events during the Olympic and Paralympic Games this summer. “Libé” details the different changes.

Its purple catches the eye. At the Stade de France, the athletics track has swapped its ocher tones for shades of indigo. On June 1, the Stade de France Consortium will bequeath the keys to the Olympic Games Organizing Committee (Cojo). 46 of the 48 athletics events of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games will be contested there from August 1 to 11, before those of the Paralympics, from August 30 to September 8. The enclosure changed its layout because the old track was “no longer in a condition to host Olympic events”, according to Maria Le Corre, deputy director of Projects and Works of the Consortium. Between now and June 25, the date of the first full-scale test on site, the rolls of the new coating will continue to be applied to allow athletes to compete in the best conditions. Libé takes stock of the particularities of this track, the cost of which is kept secret.

Why these shades of purple?

During the last Olympics in 2021, the athletics track at the Tokyo National Stadium was adorned with red in reference to the tone present on the Japanese flag. The Italian company Mondo, which has provided the covering for all the tracks since the Montreal Games in 1976 (apart from the Moscow edition of 1980), has returned for Paris 2024, this time deciding to opt for a unique purple on the 13,000 m2 of space required in the Stade de France. The objective: to stay within the key points of the graphic charter of these Games, but also “in the creative approach of the Cojo, explains Alain Blondel, manager of the athletics and para-athletics events of Paris 2024, himself a former Olympic decathlete. We wanted to move away from the usual colors of ocher, terra cotta and blue.”

Two shades stand out on the track. One lighter for the competition areas, the other darker, in the so-called technical areas, completed by a gray, in reference to the ash of the 1924 Olympic Games. The International Athletics Federation and the official broadcaster OBS were concerted. The priority is that the athletes and the track stand out as best as possible for the viewer’s eye. “It must be pretty, aesthetic. But above all it is a stage where athletes will perform,” says Alain Blondel.

An eco-responsible trail?

Purple, but also green because it is called “eco-responsible”. Among the natural and synthetic rubber, minerals, pigments and additives that compose it, this track is made up of 50% recycled or renewable ingredients. A marked increase compared to the London Games in 2012, where the track at the Olympic stadium had only 30%. And this allows a considerable saving of materials of fossil origin. “They use mussel shells that they have crushed to be able to find a structure and reduce the quantity of petroleum-bearing material that was integrated into it,” explains Alain Blondel. Mondo’s approach was to try to reduce its environmental impact.”

What sensations for the athletes?

On this purple, athletes will “be comfortable”, assures Alain Blondel. “There is a feeling of comfort which is quite important. In the decathlon, we spend twelve hours on the track twice. Well-being is important,” he explains. “This is why we worked on areas with sufficiently high contrasts so that the competition area is clearly visible and visible compared to those not used,” guarantees the former athlete. Like that of Tokyo, will the Stade de France track prove to be “fast” and conducive to seeing records fall? “We have changed the shape of the cells of the lower layer, this reduces the loss of energy for the athlete and gives it back to him at the best moment of his movement”, assured AFP in March Maurizio Stroppiana, vice-president of the sports division of Mondo and son of one of the two founders.

Why is the enclosure not renovated identically?

In addition to the appearance of a ninth lane, added for the 400 and 800 meter events, the premises have been more widely reorganized, a development intended to ensure “a perfect balance between the discus, hammer, shot put and javelin competitions. », Develops Maria Le Corre. Understand: it is now possible to organize these events on both sides, regardless of the times and the way the stadium is organized. The pole swings to the corner side, the triple jump and long jump areas to the east stand side. Changes “where there are the most paying spectators and where the most things happen”, justifies Alain Blondel. The other novelty – unprecedented for the Olympics – concerns the appearance of a central jump for the long jump and triple jump events. “We will try to make it a strong point,” says Blondel. When the athletes jump, they will arrive in front of the middle of the stand. All spectators will see them in the best possible way.


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