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May 23, 2016

Guy Forget

Paris, France

GUILLAUME LEBASTARD: Greetings to all.

GUY FORGET: (In French.) Thank you to so many of you for coming. Maybe you're a bit bored because of the rain, so it would be pretty good to have a roof over the Philippe Chatrier Court today. You could work. We could watch fine tennis and you could be broadcasting some nice images for those who don't have tickets to see the performance of these fine men and women.

Unfortunately we're going to need to wait a little bit.

GUILLAUME LEBASTARD: Questions in English, please.

Q. On rainy days like this, can you update us on the progress of the stadium? Obviously the roof is an issue. I think we would discuss in the U.S., especially.
GUY FORGET: Yes, you know, that's what I just said. When you go through two days like this you realize the importance of having a roof over your courts.

I think it's a question of respect to the crowd, you know, to the people, to you guys that are coming over thousand meters here, and to the players that are waiting hours and hours, you know, in the lounges, in the locker rooms.

To the fans out in front of the TV that love to watch tennis, they have been waiting for a year to watch clay court played on TV. We wait and wait and wait and wait. While Wimbledon, you know, Melbourne, and New York now have the new roof, you know, we'll have to wait until, you know, 2020 to have ours.

Although, you know, we have talked about it, the project started many years ago. So, you know, for that matter, I think this is the perfect example of why we need to, you know, get bigger, so the stadium is not as congested as it is today.

We need to modernize our facility for these reasons. It's a necessity, so, you know, thanks for coming today and giving me the opportunity just to send that message through.

Q. How confident are you that the roof will be in place by 2020?
GUY FORGET: Well, regarding the roof, you know, we're pretty confident, because the works have already started since two years in the stadium. It's not necessarily visible right now, but, you know, we have made progress.

Our National Tennis Center -- it's not here anymore. We have built it just near the tube station about a few hundred meters away from here.

So the Stadium 1, which is like Aorangi Park in Wimbledon, is ready and operational, and all the players are using that facility and they really enjoy it.

You know, Court 4 and 5 have been redone and the restaurants of the media that you use underneath have been completely, you know, redone.

So that's a first steps. And as soon as the tournament will be over, you know, a few days later, you know, a lot of people will come on the stadium again to go on with the work.

It's an ongoing process which will take us in 2020 where, you know, hopefully everything will be done. And the roof is actually the last piece of that puzzle.

Q. I have a question concerning not only the roof on the stadium, because there are hundreds of players here who cannot play, and I think they have to go more than half an hour away from here to train indoors. Is there anything planned you will do about this also in the future?
GUY FORGET: Well, I mean, when you look at it in Wimbledon or in New York, it's very hard when you have a few hundred players that are waiting for the rain to provide, you know, indoor courts. Australia has a few, actually, and they are lucky because they have a lot of space. We do have indoor courts, unfortunately, but they're not in clay.

So a few clubs around the area have clay courts, and some very smart players have experience and know their way around, and they can go there. But it's very hard for us to provide just like four clay courts for players.

You know, most of them actually, you know, go to the gym and go running and lift weights and have their own physio. You know, when it's only a day or two it's not that bad. You know, the nightmare would be that it would keep on going for three, four more days, and then that's very, very bad.

As we speak, the sky is clearing up and we should be able to play probably in the next - I would assume; I didn't speak to the referee. He would be crazy if he heard me say that, but probably the next half hour. I know the forecast is pretty optimistic now, so let's keep our fingers crossed and hopefully we will see play really soon.

Q. You said that the roof would be the last piece of the puzzle. Can you just clarify why that is? Because as I understand it, the expansion is what is really hurting you right now as far as red tape goes. So why the roof being the last piece of that puzzle?
GUY FORGET: Because to actually put the roof on you really need to change the structure of the stadium. So in terms of the stands that are actually going to hold those wings - I don't know if you have seen the pictures. They are like wings of planes. They're huge.

We need to work on -- actually, that place where we are now, that whole stand is going to be, you know, put down, and we're going to dig a hole, you know, into the lower level probably like 10 meters, so it's huge. That takes time.

To achieve all of these things -- I mean, actually, building the court in the gardens over there is the easy part. It's fairly easy, as long as we have the authorization to keep on doing the work. We have been stopped and we're waiting.

In September, the decision of the Conseil d'Etat, which hopefully will be favorable, and we should -- as soon as we get that authorization, work will start again.

So we will get that court hopefully way before. In '18 probably that court will be done. I mean, the roof here, it's the last piece.

THE MODERATOR: Questions in French.

Q. A little question. Are there any games that have been canceled for today?
GUY FORGET: Good question. Yes, the last matches have been canceled. The fifth rotation.

Q. If the weather doesn't improve, do you think the first round would extend beyond the days originally planned?
GUY FORGET: Yes, it has happened before in Grand Slam tournaments. I remember finishing a first-round on a Saturday in Wimbledon. England is specific, because when there are three drops of water that fall onto the lawn it becomes very slippery.

Even with rain here, on clay, we played for three-and-a-half, four hours yesterday with the drizzle. So it can keep the audience happy and it can allow you to do your job to talk been Benoit Paire who could have won quicker.

Q. You're talking about the roof in 2020. Is the risk not that we will still be behind others? There are three roofs in Melbourne; two or three in the US Open. Isn't there a risk that we're going to spend a decade on the project and be behind?
GUY FORGET: Welcome to France. (Laughter.) You know the circumstances as well as I do. The red tape in France. It's a process. We play by the rules. We asked for planning permission a long time ago. All we can do is monitor the situation and follow the due process.

This is why we have asked the players to state their positions and their opinion about the construction, and it's great to see that they are all in favor. Serena, Simona, Roger. He had left, but Rafa, Novak, Andy Murray, all of them struck a pose with a hard hat under their arm, and they want the project to move forward as quickly as possible.

We would be happy not only to offer 15,000 people a match in the central court. The thing is people are just huddled under the stalls when it rains. We could have projections of the central court on giant video screens and people could watch, could experience the atmosphere from within.

It's not the case yet.

But to answer your question, I think we have reasons to be confident, notably about the roof. There are a number of aspects. The court in the greenhouses is another aspect, and we are waiting for approval from the Conseil d'Etat.

But things should be quicker if we obtain a positive answer. Technically we could have this court ready by 2018, and therefore the Allee des Meulieres would be open to the public. There could be perhaps restaurants, shelters, and it would decongest the main avenue.

Q. (off microphone.)
GUY FORGET: No, not presently.

Q. How do you explain that the US Open builds a roof in two years and we take much longer?
GUY FORGET: Why don't you ask this question to the French president?

Quite honestly, it's a joke that's in bad taste, because the presidency, the mayor of Paris, the prime minister are supportive of the project. Policymakers are standing behind us. There may be a minority who are opposed and who are blocking the process of construction. So we are standing by.

In other countries things are quicker. I'm sure you have been to New York before. You know that there was a project to move Roland Garros to Gonesse. I think if it had been in Gonesse things would have been quicker and the local population wouldn't have been opposed, because there isn't a local population. We would have been disturbed by the crows flying low in the fields and by the airplanes.

But this is central Paris, and I'm sure that you too are appreciative of the unique charm of the location. We know that the players and their teams are delighted to be ten minutes away from the Champs-√Člys√©es or next to the Bologne or next to nice shopping areas. There are some constraints that come with that.

Q. Are you not worried by the fact that Roland Garros is running late and lagging behind the other Grand Slam tournaments in terms of audience? We talked about the construction; we talked about the rules. Can that not affect this Grand Slam tournament in the long run?
GUY FORGET: No. I think the great strength of these tournaments is their history. I believe that Rafa, that Roger, when we saw him defeat Soderling, that's the magic of these Grand Slam tournaments. And when he won it, he fell to his knees. It was phenomenal.

But then of course we have resources. We are prepared to modernize the stadium. But there you are. Our geographical situation is a disadvantage. We can't necessarily fight Melbourne, which has vast premises and of course who can bring more people in. We know we would always be restricted in these terms.

But never mind. It's not because we can't have 700,000 people attending. We will not in future have 400 or 500,000 spectators when we go into night play, which we should be able to do in 2020, and to welcome our viewers with maximum comfort.

It's true that it's taking a long time, but I'm confident that we're going to be moving forward, and that four years from now we will be here and we will have noted how the stadium has changed.

Q. In more concrete terms, spectators, if they only see one hour of tennis a day, what can they do? Can they obtain a refund for their tickets?
GUY FORGET: Yes. If there is a disaster, if you can imagine that no point is played during the entire day, the audience can obtain a full refund of their tickets. I think if play lasts more than one hour they get a 50% refund, and more than two hours of play we consider they have seen the equivalent of a soccer match in terms of time so we don't refund people.

The problem is, as was the case yesterday, when there are interruptions. You need to warm up, need to shower, then leave again and return. And for the audience, you need to try and shelter from the rain. There were jazz musicians, programs on the screens. There are a number of shopping opportunities and some very good French crepes and waffles, which are delightful when the weather is cool. But of course we are limited. We are restricted.

The leisure is not unlimited, apart from tennis.

Q. To talk about the roof, recently 2018 was the date. Is it really now 2020 at the earliest? And then in terms of the extension, the fact that things are stuck, is that leading leaders of the Federation to think about alternative projects? And final question: the delays in the project, do you think that is detrimental to Paris' candidacy for the Olympics in 2024?
GUY FORGET: I can't answer the final question. There are strikes in France. Things take a long time. And I think the Olympic committee is taking that into account. It's not necessarily a positive message we are sending out, but we are positive that the FFT -- we are convinced that our projects will come to fruition.

There are various stages that the Conseil d'Etat. The verdict about the fundamentals of the construction will come in December, and we are convinced that things will move along. Although at the moment we're stuck.

So it's a question of time. I think that 2020 is the ultimate date that we have set for ourselves, but we hope that everything will be finished.

Q. Have you already made an estimate for the end of the first round? Are the players unhappy?
GUY FORGET: You know, tennis players are great professionals. They are familiar with difficult weather. I told you in the past we finished Wimbledon on a Saturday once. We had strawberries and cream and waited patiently.

Fortunately for us, we have these tarps that can be pulled over very quickly. Even at the US Open with these hard surfaces, when it rains everything becomes very slippery. So we hope that the first round will finish quickly. The weather is looking good for tomorrow and for the next day.

But then if again, in the coming days the weather were to deteriorate, perhaps we would need to have the players play two days running. It would be sad, but the players know that and they accept it.

Q. I would like to know, for the stadium in 2020, do you already know how many spectators it can contain? 15, 20?
GUY FORGET: No. We have the same capacity. The central court will not be larger. The seating will be more comfortable, but the great novelty will be to welcome the players. I think we will have a players' lounge that will be three times larger than what it is today. The seating will be more comfortable and the roof will allow us to play whatever the weather conditions, but in terms of capacity, it will be precisely the same size.

Q. Regarding organization of Roland Garros, you could actually leave the stadium and return easily when the weather was bad? Because I think it's much more respectful of the spectators.
GUY FORGET: Yes, it's a very good question. We may review this decision to allow our spectators to leave the stadium and return.

Of course it may not be possible for security reasons, but we are well aware that sometimes there are some people who would like to go for a walk, to go to the market in Boulogne, or d'Auteuil, which I visited a couple days ago.

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