Parisians on TikTok call: “Don't come” to Paris for the Olympics

“This is a video for anyone coming to the Paris 2024 Olympics,” one woman says in a clip posted to TikTok. She pauses briefly and then continues: “Don't come. Cancel everything.”

The video, uploaded in November, now has more than 700,000 views.

The creator, Miranda Starcevic, is a 31-year-old French American living in Paris. She usually records herself speaking French, but she thought a message about the Olympics would reach more people if it were in English.

And Starcevic wanted her viewers to know it from her point of view, that of French citizens who “belong to the middle class,” as she put it: “Nobody wants the Olympic Games. It's just a big mess.”

As an international visual platform with many young users, TikTok is full of content about the Olympics. But beyond feel-good windows into the lives of athletes and promotional videos from organizers and sponsors, there are also unfiltered clips of Paris residents warning potential visitors that the city may not deliver at its best during the Games.

A 24-year-old Parisian student, whose screen name is Leo Nora, posted several short clips about the Paris Games, saying they will be “dangerous” and “hell on Earth.”

In one of his videos he says to the camera: “If you are going to come to Paris for the Olympic Games, why? Do not come. Don't come!” The clip has been viewed more than a million times.

“I've lived in Paris my whole life,” Leo Nora said in an interview. “I've been to really big events in Paris. What made me want to talk about this is that I know how it can go right and how it can go wrong.

She and Starcevic had similar reasons for encouraging people to avoid the Games. Both said they were unhappy that the city asked students to give up their student housing so the housing could be used for workers during the Games. And both expressed frustration and fears about transportation.

Organizers and government officials are concerned about strikes by transport workers during the Games, as well as more serious issues such as terrorism. Some creators have posted about Paris' rampant tourist scams, pickpockets, and recent hotel price increases. People on TikTok have also warned that there could be severe overcrowding on trains.

“It's not uncommon for people to pass out” on the subway,” Leo Nora said. When someone passes out, “the line stops, which causes delays,” he said.

Tessa Bicard, a cosmetics company executive whose TikTok handle is Madame Tartempion, posted a video titled “The Olympics will be a nightmare for Paris.” She has garnered more than 750,000 views and hundreds of comments.

Ms. Bicard, a Northern California native and Paris resident for more than 12 years, said in an interview that she was actually a big fan of the Olympics.

“I've watched them every year since I was a little girl,” she said. “I really like swimming and, of course, women's gymnastics.” But, she said, “this is the least excited I've ever seen her about the Olympics.”

Mainly, he said, because he doesn't have tickets. “They're too expensive or impossible to get,” she said. She also pointed out that all the different construction projects for the Games have already made daily life difficult. The expected influx of millions of Olympic visitors, she fears, will only make things worse. “My bus ride was complete chaos.”

Being American and living in Paris, Ms. Bicard said she often uses her TikTok account to answer questions about the city, as well as fun tips like “how to spot an American in Paris.”

Americans ask themselves: “Where is the best place to say this? What is the best neighborhood? Do you have a favorite restaurant? All that kind of stuff,” he said. He responds to as many people as possible. “There's a certain aspect of 'I feel like I can trust you because you speak with an American accent,'” he said.

When it comes to the Games, Ms. Bicard's views are a little softer than those of more outspoken Olympic opponents such as Leo Nora and Ms. Starcevic.

“If you're going to be here for the Olympics, I hope this isn't a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit Paris,” he said, adding that he expects it to be logistically challenging. “I think it's going to be really complicated and not at all pleasant to try to do some of that 'Paris' stuff,” he said.

And like Ms. Starcevic and Leo Nora — and most Paris residents — Ms. Bicard said she expected the subway to be “a total disaster” when the Games begin. Already, she said, there are posters and billboards around the city, encouraging residents to anticipate the Games. Many see it as “coded language” that hints at what many people are already thinking: “Leave town if you can – or if you can afford it.”

Leo Nora, who usually posts about feminist and racial issues on TikTok, has no plans to be in Paris during the Games; her boyfriend lives out of town and she will stay with him. “I get anxious in crowds,” she said. “I don't want to be the person who passes out and ruins everything for everyone.”

Ms. Starcevic, the owner of a sustainable online fashion brand, booked tickets months ago to spend a few days with a friend in Biarritz and a few days in the south of France, so she would be out of town during the Games. “I'm lucky enough to be able to go,” she said, “but most people don't have my privilege.”

Ms. Bicard, however, says she will stay. She plans to bike or walk to work instead of taking the subway. And she expects one of two things to happen, she said. “It will either be absolutely chaotic chaos,” he said, or surprisingly calm.

In any case, he shrugged: “Paris is my home. I love it.” And she doesn't raise an eyebrow at the anger other people in town seem to have.

“I'm married to a Parisian,” she said, “so I can also say, with some authority, that Parisians are not always the easiest people to deal with.”

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