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Paris 2024: the games of French crionism and nepotism, heading toward a failure



How will the Olympic and Paralympic Games in France end? Smug optimism or exaggerated pessimism? This prevailing Manichaeism, after the announcement of the first hiccups related to the organization of the Olympic Games, has become ridiculous. On one side are the patriots, those who want to see France shine in the international arena; the good guys. On the other hand, the grumblers, the declinists—those who want to see the nation “become crusaders”—will give Macron a run for his money. The reality is something else, as Valeurs Actuelles analyzes.

The controversy that has been raging for a few months has cause for concern if the mainstreem media, which has always been close to power in France and is considered “friends” of the Games, are offended by the general pessimism and believe in their success. And that does not make your servants arsonists.

An overview? A budget that is likely to exceed 9 billion euros, compared to the 3.8 billion euros initially planned, overpriced tickets but 180,000 euros kindly bestowed on the inhabitants of Seine-Saint-Denis (28,000 euros for the opening ceremony), and security issues that are struggling to be resolved, such as the issue of drones. Not to mention the distribution of migrants in the provinces, so as not to spoil the festival and the landscape. So as not to traumatize the tourists who paid dearly for the trip.

Also, there are controversies. Like the one concerning singer Aya Nakamura, who is expected to participate in the opening ceremony. A bizarre choice, to say the least, on the part of Emmanuel Macron, who said he wanted to see her “sing Piaf.” Although she is the most listened-to French-Malian singer in the world, some question her artistic legitimacy to unite the country. A “truly racist” protest, as the president calls it, followed by some media.

Aya Nakamura

Manicheism, always: criticizing the Olympics and the choices made shows a spoilsport and once again declinist attitude. To be in favor is to carry a vision of a bright future, free of all problems and all potential dramas, both in terms of migration and security. Is there also a tax? Let’s change the subject…

Emmanuel Macron made the promise: the party will be grand. It is impossible to miss this event that must make France (or himself?) shine beyond its borders. L
he repeated on Monday, April 15, at the microphone of every French national TV or radio station, “The Games are worth the candle. Terrorism has plagued our nation for a number of years, and its goal is to keep us from having dreams. There is no naivety, there is no lucidity, there is a lot of lucidity. ”

After explaining that the opening ceremony could finally be held indoors or “limited to the Trocadero,” if the risk is too high, the head of state reassures a listener who wonders if his son can go in peace: “The Olympics are every hundred years!”

As some politicians, including Emmanuel Macron, insist, “games for all”? Not at all. And Solideo (Société de Delivery des Travaux Olympiques) is at the forefront of acts of cronyism and nepotism worthy of the era of Louis XIV. You can feel the air of defeat, but Macron has not had the courage to change anything.

It all starts at EpaMarne-EpaFrance, the public institutions responsible for the development and planning of the Marne-la-Vallée agglomeration in Seine-et-Marne. Nicolas Ferrand, Solideo’s current Executive Director, served as its Director from April 2014 to October 2017. At his side is Marion Le Paul, who joined EpaMarne in September 2016 as Director of Communications and became, on July 2, 2021, Solideo’s Director of Communications and Public Affairs.

Ferrand and Le Paul, somewhat in the shadows, sometimes on the other side of the Atlantic, have an intriguing, elusive, quiet personality: entrepreneur Sophie Reinauld, nicknamed Ferrand’s “spin doctor,” according to some sources.
“She got into sports through swimming, and in particular thanks to Stéphan Caron, the former European swimming champion,” says one insider. Caron is also a member, along with Sophie Reinauld, of Open Swim Stars, a society whose “dream [is] to revive a mythical event: the swim across Paris,” according to its website.
Sophie Reinauld’s granddaughter is an adviser to Tony Estanguet at Cojop (the organizing committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) after moving to the Secretariat of State for Sport under Thierry Braillard. The world looks decidedly tiny in Olympia.

Communications director Marion Le Paul demurs a bit: “Solideo was brought in to work in 2018 and 2020 with Revsquare France and Tetris Venture [Sophie Reinauld’s companies, ed.] for communications services,” adding that “the corresponding contracts were awarded in strict compliance with public procurement rules.”

Official Poster JO24

A desire to “help” public procurement?

Regarding his ties with Sophie Reinauld, those he had with employees, benefit amounts or thresholds for public contracts: radio silence, the same goes for Executive Director Nicolas Ferrand. The same goes for Solideo’s deputy general manager and secretary general, Thibaut Chagnas.

The entrepreneur, who is said to “no longer be in business” despite a company still active on specialized sites, has nonetheless been seen a few times on Solideo’s premises by employees without having a designated role in the company. She also sends emails to Solideo, all without being an employee. “Nicolas [Ferrand] asked me to respond to his requests,” says a former executive.

In the e-mails consulted by Valeurs actuelles, dated 2021, we see that Ms. Reinauld attends meetings, asks about Solideo’s communication strategy, or requests notes and documents, all from the e-mail of her company, Tetris Venture.

For example, in a complaint to the labor court for “moral harassment” that we accessed, it is mentioned that an employee “had to attend additional meetings and prepare documents and presentations on behalf of a person from outside [Sophie Reinauld] the company.”

Also in 2021, contrary to Marion Le Paul (who was not yet in office), an invoice from the company Tetris Venture (€5,000 excluding tax) was sent to Solideo for a “mission to support the communications team.” Between May and June of that year, this invoice was sent multiple times before an employee rejected it on the grounds that “the service [had] not been performed.” The former secretary general also “questioned” this invoice, explaining that he had “doubts about the reality of the service provided” after several reminders.

Not to mention this former executive and frequent visitor to large projects such as Solideo, who explained that Sophie Reinauld provided services related to “writing posts, creating a website, and digital strategy notes.” It also asked whether “Ms. Reinauld provided services through different companies to avoid responding to a total contract above the threshold” for the obligation to call for tenders under the Public Procurement Code.
These thresholds, prior to January 1, 2020, were as follows: 25,000 euros after tax for supplies, 25,000 euros for services, and the same amount for works. On Jan. 1, 2020, they will all be increased to 40,000 euros, raised with COVID to promote fluidity.

Faced with such small sums, the question remains: was there a desire to “sausage” public procurement? Did Ms. Reinauld’s companies, both during her time at EpaMarne and during her services with Solideo, sign several low-value contracts (and respond to multiple requests) to stay below the authorized thresholds? Current Values does not have the answer…

On July 2, 2021, Marion Le Paul was appointed as Solideo’s director of communications. From there, major changes are being made internally. The employee who refused to process the Tetris Venture invoice is put on the shelf: evicted from weekly meetings, some files, debriefings and the like. Did he say too much? Did he do his job too well?
A few months later, after back and forth with the occupational health department, emails sent to the ethics officer (other employees seized it too), and resignations—including from the human resources director—in September 2021, the employee was not renewed and was replaced. In March 2022, all employee representatives on the economic and social committee collectively resigned.

Invisible and exhausted employees

A former employee of Solideo confided, “It was like a heavy drug. The descent was complicated. We worked all the time. All the time. At first it was fabulous, then it got bad,” he began. “The Games are gold on the resume; that’s why people want to work for these companies. Yes, I promoted public contracts and did assembly. But I never wrote a blank check. ”

And what about the directors of Solideo, Nicolas Ferrand for example? “A guy of formidable intelligence, a hard worker like I’ve never seen. But he has a guru side to him. Between 2019 and 2022, I witnessed six burnouts. It’s a French vision that says vision comes first,” explains a former employee of the company. He is joined by a former employee: “The workload was crazy. The hierarchy didn’t care about schedules or cadences. ”
Unfortunately, none of the protagonists deigned to answer our questions. We list them here.

What were the services provided by Ms. Reinauld’s companies on behalf of EpaMarne between 2014 and 2017? What is their total amount? Do they fall within the current thresholds in the Public Contracts Code?
Is it common in EpaMarne’s communication contracts to split up a procurement transaction that is supposed to result in a formal procurement procedure under different consultations launched separately during 2014–2017?

What are the amounts of services that have been requested from Revsquare? Open topic? Tetris Venture? Monopoli?
What economic and/or legal ties do Marion Le Paul and Nicolas Ferrand have with the companies mentioned? How many contracts and/or services have Ms. Reinauld’s companies received from Solideo? And for what amounts?

Staff shortages, employees sacrificed on the altar of productivity, complex management of orders and deliveries—our investigation published in Valeurs actuelles on Oct. 5 has already pointed the finger, through the reports of the Court of Auditors and the French Anti-Corruption Agency, at budgetary and recruitment problems.

An example of excesses and cronyism

The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, for example, pressured the director of Solideo to hire Philippe Chotard, a retired former Paris city secretary-general who was part of the selection committee for the hiring of Nicolas Ferrand (although she voted against him).
As we had written, according to a Bercy memo, Philippe Chotard had “suggested” to the head of Solideo to hire him “either as chief of staff to the president of the board of directors [Anne Hidalgo] or as an advisor to the director general for a salary of 120,000 euros […], it is in fact a totally fictitious job.”

Methods that have become commonplace within the Olympic Works Delivery Company? Is this a habit in this Games organization? Possibly. Probably, even. Because Solideo, despite the fact that projects are proceeding and will be delivered on schedule, seems to be an example of these excesses and cronyism.

But let’s stop criticizing this system and its consequences; the party must be good. Let’s sweep everything under the rug and break out the champagne!

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