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Olympics-Roland Garros in race to finish Paris 2024 makeover

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By Sybille de La Hamaide

PARIS (Reuters) – As the sun set on the French Open and Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz celebrated Sunday’s triumph a new race got underway at Roland Garros to transform the iconic red clay courts into dazzling Olympic venues in a matter of weeks.

Chosen back in 2016 to be one of the 41 sites for the Paris 2024 Olympics, Roland Garros now faces the exacting task of complying with the meticulous standards set by the International Olympic Committee and Paris 2024 organisers.

The clock is ticking, with six weeks to turn the Grand Slam tennis site into a stage worthy of the world’s biggest sporting extravaganza.

The transition will require a “clean venue,” where all distinctive Roland Garros marks are hidden and replaced by the Olympic rings and the host city’s logo.

Christophe Fagniez, deputy director general of the French Tennis Federation overseeing the Olympics project, describes the transformation as a blend of “camouflage and exhibition.”

By July 20, when athletes start training, Roland Garros will be awash in the vibrant colours of the Olympic Games.

First, the tournament team must dismantle food stands, entertainment corners and anything branded with Roland Garros that can be removed.

The Olympic makeover will ramp up until mid-July. After that, a comprehensive security check will pave the way for the arrival of the athletes.

While the six-week timeline is more generous than the three weeks allotted for the transformation of Wimbledon for the London 2012 Games, the challenge remains immense.

“We have very, very little time to do it,” Fagniez said. “Roland Garros spans 12 hectares with 12 courts. Other venues might have a single field of play, maybe two or three, but we have 12.”

Inside the courts, over 250 items need replacing, from the umpires’ chairs to the LED advertisements, which will be swapped out for tarpaulins sporting the Olympics look.

Despite the extensive makeover, some familiar elements will remain. The statue of 14-times champion Rafael Nadal will stay, a comforting sight for fans, though the Spaniard’s participation at the Games is uncertain after his early French Open exit.

Even as the Philippe-Chatrier Court adopts its Olympic colours, its distinctive moucharaby wall bearing the name of Roland Garros will remain visible. The iconic “RG” logo will also stay on the thousands of seats across the courts.

“It’s a stadium with great historical and sporting power, so we couldn’t erase everything,” Fagniez explains.

After the tennis tournament, the main Philippe-Chatrier Court will undergo yet another transformation to host the Olympic boxing finals over five evenings, marking the end of an extraordinary summer for this storied venue.

(Reporting by Sybille de La Hamaide; Editing by Ossian Shine and Ken Ferris)

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