Paris moved a step closer to bidding for the 2024 Olympics on Thursday when Mayor Anne Hidalgo welcomed the results of a feasibility study on bringing the games back to the capital after a 100-year absence.
Hidalgo, who received the feasibility study during a ceremony at city hall, said "decisive steps" have been made toward a Paris candidacy. With the support of French President Francois Hollande already secured, convincing Hidalgo to give her approval has been the main task of French Olympic officials in recent months.
Last November, Hidalgo said she was concerned about the costs, the environmental impact and the specter of white elephants if France hosted the games.
Although she did not give her go-ahead Thursday, the mayor seemed to embrace the project brought forward by Bernard Lapasset, who heads the French Committee for International Sport and would lead the French bid with IOC member Tony Estanguet if Paris decides to go forward.
Hidalgo said she was pleased with the financial and environmental guarantees in the study, but still needs to consult with members of the Paris city council and nearby cities that could be involved before making a decision on whether to bid. An announcement is expected in April.
"The fact that the IOC recently adopted 40 proposals in favor of sustainability and that the Olympic movement will fund the bid up to 1.8 billion euros ($2 billion) has boosted everything," Hidalgo said. "But we still need to define precisely our economic model."
Paris estimates an infrastructure budget for the Olympics of 3 billion euros ($4.5 billion), with operational costs of 3.2 billion euros ($4.8 billion).
Because of France's economic struggles, no public money will be spent if the country decides to go ahead, officials have said. If Paris gets the games, state and local authorities would only contribute up to 50 percent of the operational costs.
Paris last hosted the Olympics in 1924 and mounted unsuccessful bids for the 1992, 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
Rome and Boston are the only declared candidates so far for 2024. Germany will decide between Hamburg and Berlin as its candidate. Other possible contenders include a city or region in South Africa; Doha, Qatar; Baku, Azerbaijan; and Budapest, Hungary.
The deadline for submission of preliminary bids to the IOC is Sept. 15. The host city will be selected in 2017.
After recently saying France would be unable to bid for both the 2025 World Expo and the 2024 Olympics, Hidalgo backpedalled Thursday and said the two events could be pursued at the same time.
The mayor said seeing the global reaction to the terror attacks in Paris that left 20 people dead last month made her realize how much people care for the French capital.
"It was a determining fact that sped up our work," Hildago said.
Although Lapasset did not provide details of the potential bid, he said existing infrastructure would be at the heart of the project. The Stade de France, a new cycling track on the outskirts of Paris, the Roland Garros tennis stadium and many Parisian landmarks including the Grand Palais and Champ de Mars are likely to be used.
"With the adoption of the 2020 agenda, IOC members have sent a strong signal that bidders don't necessarily need to go overboard," Estanguet said. "Thanks to the existing infrastructure, we don't have to spend much."
The main construction requirements for the bid include an aquatic center, Olympic village and media center.
"We are thinking about two possible scenarios, but we can't tell you much because of competition from the others," Lapasset said. "We'll keep the first word for the IOC. But in any case, 80 percent of the athletes would be within 30 minutes of the Olympic village."
Lapasset confirmed that he won't seek another term at the helm of the International Rugby Board if France decides to bid.
"I will stop after the 2015 World Cup to focus on the bid with Tony," said Lapasset, adding that former IOC member Jean-Claude Killy had also offered his help.