The Seine-Saint-Denis legacy after Paris 2024. GETTY IMAGES

Paris' Olympic bid aimed to rejuvenate an area characterised by diverse immigration and the youngest population in the country, with a significant proportion - 1.6 million of inhabitants - living below the poverty line. Paris 2024 also wants to leave a legacy in Seine-Saint-Denis.

France wants to use the Olympics to revitalise Seine-Saint-Denis and change its image from a crime-ridden area born out of suburban riots in 2005. The Paris Nord district is a key site for the Olympics and will host the athletes' village, four major venues and other Olympic facilities.

Its reputation suffered another blow in the global media after the debacle of the 2022 Champions League final, when football fans were attacked and robbed on their way to the Stade de France and, two years later UEFA finally settled with Liverpool fans after being forced to apologise for the 2022 failings.

The mayor of Ile-Saint-Denis, the narrow island in the Seine, Mohamed Gnabaly, is "obsessed" with making the Olympics "the people's games".

Security chaos at Paris 2022 Champions League final. GETTY IMAGES
Security chaos at Paris 2022 Champions League final. GETTY IMAGES

Gnabaly is determined to maximise the benefits of the Games, despite his town hall being vandalised during the riots that followed the police shooting of a teenager outside Paris last June. "We have suffered (with all the work) but this will not only transform our city, we will be at the heart of the reactor. We will not be left out of the Games."

"There are two extremes," Cecile Gintrac of Vigilance JO, a local watchdog group, told AFP. "One part of Paris will be a big party, while the other part won't be able to go to work or get around" because of all the Olympic road closures and restrictions. "It will be a nightmare to get around," delivery driver Moussa Syla, 45, who lives in the Francs-Moisins district, told AFP.

Rising property values in Paris and the imminent completion of Europe's biggest infrastructure project, the extension of the metro system to Seine-Saint-Denis, have made the département attractive to developers. 

Isabelle Vallentin, number two at Solideo, the government agency in charge of Olympic projects, said: "The extremely decrepit housing stock in Seine-Saint-Denis needs to be developed. 

A significant proportion of the €4.5 billion construction budget for the Games has been earmarked for this initiative, with the department being the main beneficiary, receiving around 80 per cent of the €1.7 billion in public funds.

The legacy of the Games will begin after the Paralympics. The Olympic Village, the biggest construction project of the Games and a whole new eco-neighbourhood in itself, will be transformed into a mixed-use neighbourhood of homes and offices. 

The first 6,000 residents are due to move in early next year, along with a matching number of workers, but only one a third of the 2,800 homes will be available for sale on the open market.

Unlike the London Games, which were criticised for "gentrification on an industrial scale" and broken promises to locals, Solideo's Vallentin said they insisted developers "respond first to (local) housing needs". So 25 to 40 per cent of the apartments will be social housing, while the rest will be "affordable". 

Seine-Saint-Denis will also benefit from several new swimming facilities, including the Olympic Aquatic Centre, where the main Olympic pool will be converted into two new training pools after the Games, and the organisers are also helping to pay for two others.

A new pedestrian and cycle bridge is being built over the Saint-Denis canal to connect to the Stade de France. It will replace an outdated and unreliable revolving road bridge and a steep pedestrian crossing with steps.

"(Normally) you have to fold up the pram and carry the baby in your other arm, so this is really great, a real plus for the area," Karene, a mother of three, told AFP. The bridge was made possible by the Games, which paid two-thirds of the final cost of €10.5 million. 

Another part of the Paris 2024 legacy to be left in Seine-Saint-Denis is related to employment. Officials estimate that around 180,000 people will be employed for the duration of the Games, most of them on short-term contracts. "We need to find a second wind for Seine-Saint-Denis so that the jobs stay here," said Vallentin. 

"We have to be honest, there is probably a mismatch between what was expected from the Games and the level of unemployment and precariousness we have," Bernard Thibault, a former CGT union leader who sits on the Olympic committee, told AFP.

One of the most important legacies of the Olympic Games could be a change in the perception of Seine-Saint-Denis. A massive security operation is planned for the Games, but recent incidents, including an attack on a police station and the robbery of jewellery from the head of the Mongolian delegation, have made it difficult to change the area's negative image.

"I hope it will be well organised, because if it is like the football (the chaotic scenes ahead of the 2022 Champions League final), the image of Saint-Denis will plummet again," concluded Karene.