USA was in Paris to play France in a test event in the new Olympic water polo venue that is nestled beside the Stade de France in the Saint Denis district. It is one of two legacy structures constructed for the Games with the other being the Le Bourget Sport Climbing Venue. Both look to add a very nice post-Games sporting legacy. 

The one match over — a 12-6 victory for USA on the Monday night — and the team had time out to enjoy another venue in which it could be playing in August — the multi-purpose Paris La Defense Arena — on the Friday night.

Image Source: A general view of the Paris Olympic Aquatic Centre before the women's water polo test match between France and the United States in May 2024 (Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

The occasion was the Taylor Swift Era Tour concert and the full squad took in the music in the massive arena — the largest indoor stadium in Europe — thanks to the generosity of the performer. The team manager reached out to the Swift management; head coach Adam Krikorian announced it in a team meeting and the rest is history.

Artistic swimming, diving and the water polo finals will be staged in the arena and hopes are to attract numbers rarely seen before.

(Berlin 1936 attracted about 20,000 spectators; Sydney 2000 took in 17,000 for the finals and about 15,000 were attracted to men’s competition for water polo’s second week at Athens 2004.)

No matter how many watch in Paris, it will far exceed Tokyo 2020 where the Covid-19 pandemic meant spectators were not allowed in the venues.

Image Source: Exterior view of the Paris Olympic Aquatics Centre during the pre-Olympic aquatics test events from May 2024 (Adam Pretty/Getty Images)

The Taylor Swift Eras Tour finishes in time for Paris 2024 to swing into action and convert the vast amenity into an aquatic centre with competition and training pools, much like Doha 2024 in its Aspire Dome.

Krikorian said the concert was great, enjoyed by all, and that the stadium is “mammoth”. He said it was a great experience for the women's team.  
USA captain Maggie Steffens, who is gunning for her fourth straight Olympic gold in Paris, spoke to media alongside goalkeeper Ashleigh Johnson after the test event.

Steffens said: “For us to get a game here and play against France in France and get that home-crowd experience, it definitely brings that Olympic energy for us. It was important.”

Image Source: USA Water Polo/World Aquatics

Johnson was equally ebullient about the complex and the engagement with France.

“I’m so excited to see my team in this venue. It’s getting real and getting close. I feel we have been preparing for this moment and every moment after and I hope we can keep building and getting better.”

On playing a test match in the Olympic venue: “Invaluable, you can’t put a price on it. Playing the home team on home territory. You can’t really replicate that feeling. We definitely felt it today.

“It was shocking to feel that enthusiasm to remember what a crowd like that looks like because, because in Tokyo we didn’t get that experience,” Johnson said.

Then it was time to relax, let the hair down and take in the Taylor Swift concert — the first of perhaps several wonderful highlights in the venue...

Image Source: The Paris La Defense Arena transforms in anticipation for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games (Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)