PARIS: President Emmanuel Macron urged French athletes to secure a top-five finish for the country at this year’s Paris Olympics, a target he said was “more achievable than ever.”

Speaking at France’s national Olympic training centre in eastern Paris, he delivered a speech full of confidence in France’s organisers and athletes to deliver an “incredible moment of French pride and celebration.”

Macron said the 68 Olympics construction sites would be delivered “on time” and “in budget”, comparing the 13-percent increase in the organising budget for the Paris Games excluding inflation to what he said was a 200-percent rise for the London Olympics in 2012.

“People thought it was impossible but we’ve delivered it,“ he said, adding that the Games would also “set a standard” as a low-emission Olympics with a carbon footprint 50 percent less than previous editions.

On the sports front, France was in a position to finish in the top five on the medals table, Macron argued, notably thanks to massive public investments in infrastructure, elite athletes and grassroots sports.

“Our Olympic top five target is more achievable than ever according to the latest forecasts, which show that France could have its best Games since 1900,“ he said. “I don’t want to put too much pressure, but it’s sound, healthy pressure.”

France finished tenth at the last Games in Tokyo in 2021, with Britain the only top five European nation.

Political analysts say Macron is hoping the summer Games can help lift French spirits and improve their views of their president, who remains unpopular after disputed pension reforms and major demonstrations.

The Paris Olympics will take place from July 26-August 11 with the Paralympics following from August 28-September 8. - AFP