Fury as Paris Olympics poster removes Christian cross from Napoleon’s tomb as France considers allowing a Saudi ‘Olympic village’ to be set up at the famous landmark

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Written By Maya Cantina
  • Two art-deco posters of the city were revealed this week to promote the event

The Paris Olympics poster has removed a Christian cross from Napoleon’s tomb, sparking fury among critics.

Two art-deco posters of the city were revealed this week to promote the event, displayed on billboards in the capital. 

But right-wing critics have spoken out against the ‘woke’ designs for omitting a cross from the Domes des Invalides.

It comes amid anger over the government’s potential plans to build what has been labelled a Saudi ‘Olympic village’ on the grounds of Les Invalides.

Both conservatives and liberals have displayed anger after one of Emmanuel Macron’s ministers confirmed that Paris was treating Riyadh’s request to set up a national pavilion in the centre of the military complex ‘sympathetically’.

The site houses museums of the army and the Legion of Honour, as well as the hospital for wounded soldiers. State memorial ceremonies and funerals take place in the courtyard.

The Paris Olympics are set to run from July 26 to August 11, followed by the Paralympics from August 28 to September 8. 

The pavilion will take its spot in May for a total or four months under plans that were revealed after conservative MP Nathalie Serre demanded details in a parliamentary question.

The promotional posters for the Olympics from French artist Ugo Gattoni, which show the Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides and the Grand Palais, were unveiled yesterday. 

The Dome Church of Les Invalides. The row comes amid anger over Macron's government's potential plans to build what has been labelled a Saudi 'Olympic village' on the grounds of Les Invalides

The promotional posters for the Olympics from French artist Ugo Gattoni, which show the Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides and the Grand Palais, were unveiled yesterday. Pictured right: The Dome Church of Les Invalides

Noting that the cross was missing from the building where Napoleon’s tomb is kept, Francois-Xavier Bellamy of the right-wing Republicans party angrily said that those responsible for the image were ‘ready to deny France, going so far as to distort reality to cancel its history’.

‘What is the point of holding the Olympic Games in France if we then hide who we are?’ Marion Marechal of the far-right Reconquete (Reconquest) party posted on X.

National Rally lawmaker Nicolas Meizonnet wrote that the omissions must be the result of ‘wokism’ – a bugbear of France’s far right.

In reaction to being pulled into France’s culture wars, Gattoni said he had rendered buildings ‘in the way they come to my mind, without any ulterior motive’.

‘I am not aiming to make them accurate to the originals but rather to make them recognisable at a glance, placing them within a surrealist and celebratory universe,’ he said in a statement sent by the organising committee.

The committee said that the posters were a ‘light-hearted interpretation of a reinvented stadium-city’, adding that there was no obligation to include the French flag.

A surfing wave is seen ‘offshore of the Marseille Marina; the Eiffel Tower is pink; the Metro is passing through the Arc de Triomphe – none of which should be the object of politically motivated interpretations,’ it said.

The colours of the French flag – blue, white and red – are present in the mascots’ rosettes, it said, and other national symbols such as Marianne are also visible.

Speaking of the proposal for the Saudi ‘Olympic village’, Serre said that a foreign state would not by in sync with ‘an architectural treasure, full of symbolism and our country’s history’.

She added: ‘There are some things that are not for sale and in my view Les Invalides is one of them.’

Defence minister Sébastien Lecornu said that the government was holding a ‘sympathetic view’ to the proposal, noting that ‘Saudi Arabia is committed to respecting the security and financial measures of Les Invalides’ and calling Riyadhan ‘important defence partner’. 

He said a number of nations would be erecting pavilions in the city.

The defence ministry noted that the deal was reliant ‘on strict conditions that the Saudis have not yet accepted, which must ensure the security and solemnity of the site and the peace of the resident pensioners’.

Both conservatives and liberals have displayed anger after one of Emmanuel Macron's ministers confirmed that Paris was treating at Riyadh's request to set up a national pavilion in the centre of the military complex 'sympathetically' (File Photo)

Both conservatives and liberals have displayed anger after one of Emmanuel Macron’s ministers confirmed that Paris was treating at Riyadh’s request to set up a national pavilion in the centre of the military complex ‘sympathetically’ (File Photo)

With every decision scrutinised and discussed on social media, organisers have faced criticism before over their choices for the Games’ aesthetics and merchandise in the past.

Last year, critics pounced on the fact that the official mascots for Paris 2024 were mostly being made in China, while others suggested the cuddly red triangles resembled a clitoris.

The official logo, featuring a flame, was compared to the one used by the far-right National Rally party of Marine Le Pen when it was unveiled in 2019.

On Tuesday, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said that a total of 326,000 tickets were set to be sold or given away for the opening ceremony on the river Seine, giving the exact number for the first time.

Organisers have scaled back their plans for the water-borne open-air parade – with crowds once imagined as large as two million people – in the face of resistance from French security services and worries about terror attacks.

But it is still set to break records in terms of size, with all previous Olympic opening ceremonies taking place in the main athletics stadium.

‘We will have 104,000 spectators on the lower bank who have paid for a ticket,’ Darmanin told a hearing in the Senate. ‘Then you have 222,000 people on the higher banks (with free tickets).’

He estimated an additional 200,000 people would watch the parade on July 26 along the river from buildings that overlook the Seine, with 50,000 more in fanzones in the capital.

The boat parade is in keeping with promises to make the Paris Olympics ‘iconic’, with the organising committee keen to break from past traditions in the way it stages the world’s biggest sporting event.

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