The latest challenge for organizers of the 2024 Summer Games in Paris?
An infestation of bedbugs.
The tiny blood-sucking insects are suddenly everywhere in the City of Light, seen in videos crawling on the seats of the Paris metro, showing up on trains and airports, and nesting in mattresses.
“Faced with the scourge of bedbugs, we must act!” Paris Deputy Mayor Emmanuel Grégoire said in a translation of a social media post last week that called on France’s prime minister “to organize a conference on the fight against invasive species.”
The deputy mayor said ominously in a separate post, “No one is safe.”
The French newspaper Le Parisian warned in a story posted Tuesday about “an explosive cocktail” of pests plaguing next year’s Olympics, with rats and mosquitoes joining bedbugs and giving “rise to a worrying health situation.”
A meme already viewed some 250,000 times on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, depicts giant bedbugs swarming terrified visitors at what appears to be a Paris train station and features the Paris 2024 logo.
Not exactly the publicity the French probably want to see with less than a year to go before their Summer Games, especially following recent stories about everything from a police raid on the organizing committee to the River Seine being too polluted to host a test event.
Bedbugs — or “punaise de lit” in French — aren’t mentioned on the official Paris2024.org website. French authorities have sought to reassure locals and visitors about the parasites, said to affect 1 in 10 French households in recent years.
“There is no reason for general panic. We are not invaded by bedbugs,” France’s health minister, Aurélien Rousseau, said during an interview on French public radio channel France Inter Tuesday morning, ABC News reported.
Even Grégoire, the Paris deputy mayor, has tried to tone down concerns raised about the impact bedbugs can have on the Olympics.
“There is no threat to the Olympic Games,” Gregoire said, according to CNN. He added, “Bedbugs existed before and they will exist afterward” and called the upcoming Summer Games an “opportunity” to work together on the issue.
But Sophie Marie Niang, who lives between Paris and Cambridge, England, where she is studying for a doctorate in sociology, told NBC News the infestation is contributing to the idea that “everything is going wrong” for the city ahead of the Games.
“People torched Olympic worksites in protest during the riots,” she said, a reference to June’s unrest over the police killing of Nahel Marzouk, a 17-year-old of North African descent, “and Paris is swarming with bedbugs.”
“It does not bode well,” Niang said.