Paris 2024: Parents complain about having to buy tickets for babies. GETTY IMAGES

Parents of babies are calling for a change in ticket sales rules for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games after discovering that their babies will be being denied access to venues unless they have their own paid seats.

Margaux Giddings, a nurse from south-west France, bought her ticket to watch the gymnastics last year when they were first sold, then became pregnant and recently gave birth. "I'm breastfeeding my daughter and she will be five months old at the time of the games," the 33-year-old told AFP. "It bothers me to leave her. I would have liked to take her with me in a baby carrier or a backpack."

The policy for the Games, which run from 26 July to 11 August, is that "all spectators need a valid ticket to enter an Olympic venue, including children of all ages", something that was tried, albeit unsuccessfully, at the last Olympics in England in 2012.

"I couldn't believe it when I found out that once a baby is born, they need their own seat," said Tom Baker, a 37-year-old ticket holder from London who is expecting his first child with his wife Kate in May. He contacted Paris 2024 and was told via chat service that he should consider buying tickets for the Paralympic Games, where, unlike the Olympic Games, there are discounted prices for children.

"I said, 'Wait a minute! We bought the tickets a year and a half before the event, we didn't even know we were definitely trying to get pregnant,'" he told AFP. "You couldn't know, and you can't solve it because the tickets are sold out," he complained, and rightly so.

A USA fan holds a baby at the Al Bayt Stadium at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. GETTY IMAGES
A USA fan holds a baby at the Al Bayt Stadium at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. GETTY IMAGES 

Meanwhile, the Paris organising committee, which has already faced criticism over ticket prices, defended its decision to require everyone, including babies in arms, to have their own seat. "In general, Paris 2024 does not recommend that parents bring children under the age of four to competition venues," it said in a statement sent to AFP.

"Paris 2024 urges parents to take into account the environment of sports venues, which may not be suitable for the well-being of young children." The suitability of taking young children and babies to the Olympics is a decision for parents to make alongside medical advice, which is not always accompanied by a recommendation not to take them. 

In other sports, the policy on babies varies. At the Euro and World Cups, children of all ages must be seated and many big clubs discourage babies, but they are often welcome free of charge at sports such as rugby, cricket or athletics. Some events do not charge admission but do require liability insurance, such as Argentina's Professional Football League.

A baby wears headphones at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. GETTY IMAGES
A baby wears headphones at the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. GETTY IMAGES

The 2012 London Olympics started with the same ticketing policy as Paris, but the organisers changed it under public and media pressure. For Rio 2016, there were differentiated prices for pensioners, students and the disabled.

Adrien Pol, a social worker from Liege, Belgium, who is expecting his first child in June, hopes for a similar change. "It's discriminatory against women," he said of the policy. "We want to breastfeed, so it will end up being my partner Marine who has to stay with our child. "She may have to make the sacrifice if it's something we wanted to do together," he added.

Pol said parents should be free to make their own decisions, adding that his basketball and beach volleyball sessions only lasted three hours. "It's not a concert, if you're well equipped, the child can be there, at six weeks old, all the child wants is to feel safe in the arms of his parents," he told AFP. "All they need is to feel safe and to be in the arms of their parents.