PARIS (Reuters) -Competitors in the marathon at the Paris 2024 Olympics will run from central Paris to Versailles and back, on a course designed to salute women and trace one of the pivotal historic events of the French Revolution.
The marathon route unveiled on Wednesday was modelled on the path of the October 1789 Women's March on Versailles - when thousands, mainly female market traders furious over the price of bread, marched to the lavish palace of King Louis XVI.
They forced him to return with them to the centre of the capital in an event that historians say ended the absolute power of the monarchy.
"We're trying to give some meaning to our events and choosing this course was a good way to do it," Paris 2024 boss Tony Estanguet told Reuters. "We really want to innovate."
For the first time since women began running the Olympic marathon in 1984, women will conclude the athletics programme, with their marathon coming a day after the men's event.
"Women first. We wanted to celebrate women," Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo told a news conference.
"Paris is a place of revolution. It's a revolutionary city, so this course makes sense," added Valerie Pecresse, the head of the Ile de France (greater Paris) region.
Organisers have also added two mass events - a marathon and a 10-km run - to allow non-Olympians to run the course. Each will be open to 20,024 participants.
"Our country proclaims loud and clear that high-level sport must more than ever be a source of inspiration for all generations while driving mass participation," French Sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said.
"Sport has the power to positively transform society: let us give it every means to do so."
The marathon course will pass Parisian monuments including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, the Palais Garnier, the Jardin des Tuileries and several world-famous bridges.
"Beyond a doubt, the Paris 2024 marathon will have something special about it. To perform in such an impressive setting, in a place so charged with history and symbolism, will be a unique experience," said two-time Olympic champion and world record holder Eliud Kipchoge.
"I could not ask for a more perfect race for the Games."
It will also be an unusually challenging route, with 438 metres of altitude gain.
"It appears to be more demanding than normal," World Athletics president Sebastian Coe told Reuters. "Clearly it's a marathon that will be challenging. But some marathon runners prefer undulating courses."
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Peter Graff and Christian Radnedge)