Rugby: Castres Olympique, the success of a club rooted in its territory

The life in blue. And white. In Castres, it’s like that. The colors of the rugby club, Castres Olympique (CO), brighten up the local mood. Even more these last days of electric patience before the semi-final of the Top 14, Friday June 17 in the evening in Nice, against the big red and black neighbors of Toulouse. In the small town of Tarn, shopkeepers are playing the game in the shop window, the giant screen is ready on Place Soult, and 40,000 inhabitants are waiting to vibrate in unison.

However, it is not the exceptional nature of the event that mobilizes the city. Since 2012, this is the fifth time that CO has reached the last four. And his initials were engraved on the Brennus shield given to the champion twice, in 2013 and 2018. Castres is well and truly used to the top. Nevertheless, she never shuns her pleasure, entirely dedicated to her oval passion.

A unique proximity with the players

“Castres is an isolated sub-prefecture, where life can sometimes be complicated, and where rugby is an opportunity to unite around a common cause. It’s a source of pride and a very strong identity factor, probably more so than elsewhere. » The one who thus poses the picture is Pierre-Yves Revol, president of the club since 1988 (except between 2008 and 2014), and also president of the Pierre-Fabre Foundation, the pharmaceutical giant from Tarn (2.5 billion euros in revenue in 2021) which abounds the coffers of the club.

The CO is probably not the Tom Thumb that the boss takes pleasure in describing, but he does display a singularity in a rugby landscape dominated by large cities. “We have the tenth budget of the Top 14, and to remain competitive, we need a different recipecontinues Pierre-Yves Revol. Our ingredients? First, an ability to detect unknown talents. Then, to keep them as long as possible by promoting our values, and in particular the important interactions with the population. Finally, essential transmission work, with many former players in the management, retraining that we also support locally. »

In fact, if the CO has players of excellence like the back Julien Dumora, the Fijian center Vilimoni Botitu or the Australian second line Tom Staniforth, he never points out his individualities, always preferring to praise the collective. The players have integrated the discourse and also fade away without hesitating behind the group. Are internationals rare? So much the better, the CO keeps its troops, when the leaders of the championship have to deal with duplicates. The keys to success this year are also there, with the team finishing first in the regular season for the first time.

A quarter of the population at the stadium

No stars at CO therefore, where everyone remains accessible. “There is a real closeness with the players», assures Didier Hardy, former soldier of the 8th Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment (RPIMa) of Castres, another pillar of the city, and president of the Friends of Rugby, a supporters club born in 2012. “A real familiarity sets in, without it weighing on them, and the players appreciate it. Often, they don’t want to leave anymore. The audience, very family-oriented, pays them back. Even during Covid and games behind closed doors, we were outside the stadium with the sound to support them. »

President of Pouvoir Castres, another association of supporters created in 2005, Aurélie Joligard-Ouertani also applauds the availability of the players. “Seventeen of them are the sponsors of our association, and they very often come to the evenings that we organize or to help us. I’m not sure that’s the case everywhere. »

His brother Julien, ex-president of the association, evokes for his part a “true communion of spirit: during the Covid, we were the first club where the supporters agreed not to be reimbursed for their subscription, and the players the first to agree to a reduction in wages. When you see that a quarter of the city’s population ends up at the Pierre-Fabre stadium every other Sunday, I find that quite beautiful.”.

Pierre Fabre, the name of the creator of pharmaceutical laboratories, who died in 2013, remains unifying in the Tarn city. “It all starts with him, in fact, with his lifelong loyalty to the territory, more patriarch than big bosssummarizes Aurélie Joligard-Ouertani. He remains the dad of the city and of the CO, really. »

Pierre-Yves Revol now ensures the heritage, even evoking the notion of pleasure “wider than sporting or aesthetic pleasure. This team joins the trajectory of the Pierre Fabre group, with one mission: to promote this city. After our title in 2013, many doubted the sustainability of this adventure. We are still here, hoping that we can continue to value this territory for a long time”.


Pierre-Henry Broncan, the leader of men

For ten years, the CO has been working to recruit coaches in line with the club’s philosophy. After the duo of Laurent, Travers and Labit, architects of the first title in 2013, then Christophe Urios at the maneuver for that of 2018, it is Pierre-Henry Broncan who has been in charge since December 2020. The 48-year-old technician, passed by Auch, Stade Toulouse and Bath in England, is in line with the values ​​of Tarn. No sweeping declarations, an incredible knowledge of world rugby which allows him to unearth rare profiles, a pragmatic conception of the game. It’s not always spectacular, but it often wins. Perfect summary of the CO.



Urban sports, between Olympic integration and preserved identity

Twenty five years. The maturity that settles, and the full form that rides. In Montpellier, the International Extreme Sports Festival (Fise) is celebrating its quarter century of existence from this Wednesday, May 25 with drums and trumpets: 600,000 spectators are expected on the banks of the Lez to applaud nearly 2,000 “riders » BMX, skateboard and scooter specialists (read below).

→ EXPLANATION. These sports disciplines which apply equal pay for men and women

Acrobatics of all kinds, music at top speed, but also high-flying performances, the Fise in all its splendor, cantor of the development of these other sports also called “alternative”, “urban”, even “action sports”. Disciplines born in the street or on other playgrounds than traditional sports, which first claim a lifestyle and the absence of executives, but which for some years have come closer to the sports movement, until the recent integration of some of them into the Olympic Games, like skateboarding and BMX in Tokyo, “breaking” soon in Paris.

A new youth for the Olympic movement

The Fise is not for nothing in this evolution. The founder of the festival, Hervé André-Benoit, is one of its main architects and one of its best advocates. “For years, Fise and these sports have grown up in almost general indifference, he says. We were the rebels, unorganized, caricatural riders for the sports authorities. We had to professionalize ourselves to become credible, especially with sponsors and the media. »

→ REPORT. Paris 2024: before the Olympics, sport as a tool for social innovation

Twenty years later, urban sports follow the same path as the sliding sports emerging at the end of the 1980s, windsurfing, surfing, snowboarding. Disciplines that advocate freedom and pleasure above all, far from competitions and marked practices. But that the Olympic movement hastened in the 1990s to bring back into its fold. “And it is an inevitable phenomenon, judge the sociologist Thomas Riffaud, who went from a shy kid at the edge of skateparks to a roller-skating champion on the professional podiums. Sports appear on the fringes, but most don’t stay there. These are movements that experience a “sportification” with the establishment of understandable rules, essential to interest the general public and go beyond the community framework. »

Keeping an alternative culture alive

It was from 2014 that international federations and the International Olympic Committee took a closer look at these twirling urban sports. “Traditional sports bodies obey a real desire for rejuvenation, observes Hervé André-Benoit. It is obvious that nearly one out of two kids today tends to practice these sports. We cannot ignore them. » For the creator of Fise, skateboarding and BMX at the Games are pathfinders. “In skateparks today, 40% of practitioners are on scooters, he continues. And parkour (a kind of gymnastics which consists of overcoming obstacles in an urban environment, Editor’s note) is exploding. These two disciplines have their place for me at the Los Angeles Games in 2028, and Brisbane in 2032, two cities that are very focused on urban sports. »

This absorption by the dominant model is however still the subject of fiery discussions within the communities concerned. The risk of losing your soul, of being diluted in the great Olympic bath? Eternal debate. “If we look at the evolution of surfing, for example, we realize that there are now two populations that no longer have anything in common: seasoned athletes and surfers who are out of control, always in search of the ultimate wave. , comments Thomas Riffaud. Urban sports are now at a pivotal stage, with riders from both trends still coexisting. The Fise also sails on this crest line, with competitions of course, but seeking to maintain a living alternative culture. »

For Hervé André-Benoit, it is indeed a matter of pushing “a regulated practice, especially within skatepark academies, because a frame is something that reassures parents, but also to preserve free practice, because it’s our DNA”. A big gap which inevitably raises the question of the calibrated spectacle, especially for the Games. “You have to know what you are giving in or not in the process of Olympic normalization, emphasizes Thomas Riffaud. Be careful on the one hand not to expose riders who may not yet be athletes, and on the other not to offer competitions that are too smooth, erasing the exuberant spectacle of our disciplines, as was rather the case in Tokyo. » In short, a question of balance. But isn’t this the prerogative of aerobatic aces?


Seven disciplines on the program

From May 25 to 29, seven disciplines are on the program of the International Festival of Extreme Sports (Fise).

Three are Olympic: BMX freestyle park and skateboarding present in Tokyo, and breaking (or breakdance) which will make their debut in 2024 in Paris.

The other four are inline skating, scootering, parkour and BMX flatland, which consists of chaining tricks on your bike without dismounting. The Fise has forged partnerships with certain international federations, such as the International Cycling Union or the International Gymnastics Federation, which enables the festival to host the BMX and parkour World Cup stages in particular.



Football: the comeback of Olympique de Marseille

The return of the big nights? The crazy end to the Olympique de Marseille season begins this Thursday, April 28 in Rotterdam (at 8:50 p.m. on M6), against the Dutch from Feyenoord. A semi-final first leg of the Europa Conference League, the “smallest” of the European Cups of course, but a continental meeting all the same. And the only one at this level for a French club this year. Ligue 1 then takes over on Sunday 1er May, with the reception of Lyon. OM’s objective: to maintain a six-point lead over their pursuers to finish well and truly, three championship days later, runner-up to an already crowned PSG.

→ ANALYSIS. Europa League: Villarreal, the triumph of peripheral football

An OM playing for the top on two counts, this had not happened since 2009. The Olympians had been eliminated in the quarter-finals of the Europa League by Chakhtar Donetsk (future winner of the event), by finishing second in Ligue 1 just three points from the Girondins de Bordeaux, at the time still in majesty. Of course, the chronicle retains that Marseille was dolphin of PSG in 2013. But the Phocaeans were then out of the Europa League from the group stage. Conversely, in 2018, they had reached the final in the Europa League, dryly beaten by Atlético Madrid (0-3). But in Ligue 1, stumbling down the home stretch, they had only clinched fifth place.

A president and a coach in phase

This season, Marseille is doing quite well, but without any major setbacks. As if something had finally calmed down, after a long period of instability. Since the takeover of the club in October 2016 by the American magnate Frank McCourt, it is a beginning of balance, fragile but real. Probably because the right people are in the right places. In the forefront of which Pablo Longoria, the president of the club, ex-sports director promoted in February 2021 in place of Jacques-Henri Eyraud.

The 35-year-old Spaniard, with his passion for football and his encyclopedic knowledge of the players, very quickly got involved in a fairly hectic summer transfer window. Even constrained by limited finances, the club has renewed its workforce with a dozen arrivals. Winning bets, like the international Mattéo Guendouzi, the kingpin of the midfield, the Brazilian Gerson, often decisive at the end of the season, or the defender William Saliba, a revelation recently called up to the Blues.

→ REREAD. Football: three European Cups or nothing

Pablo Longoria was also able to find the coach who could set his score to music: the Argentinian Jorge Sampaoli, recruited for his ” philosophy “ game. The most repeated term throughout the season, by leaders and players alike. OM is therefore a style, “the school of positional football”, defines Pablo Longoria. That is to say a game of possession, posed by the Iberian technician Juanma Lillo, assistant to Jorge Sampaoli for a year in Seville (in 2016-2017), and who officiates today alongside the playing master Pep Guardiola at Manchester City.

A project built on a game identity

“We are developing a very marked project, with a game identity. There are always moments that will make us doubt our ideas. But we must insist on our principles,” confided Pablo Longoria to The Team in December 2021. And Marseille insists, with often changing tactical plans and sometimes lackluster performances. But the direction imposed, the players follow it without hesitation. “For me, the greatest satisfaction is to see a group that has understood this idea and defends it at each meeting”, also supports Jorge Sampaoli.

Keep the ball, make the play, find the flaw. Supporters appreciate it. The proof in the recent reversal against Nantes at the Vélodrome. A bad start, but a 3-2 victory in the end. “Coward mentality, like Guendouzi”, displayed on a banner the group of supporters Marseille Trop Puissant. They like it, guts on the table, all the way. And Jorge Sampaoli to applaud “this tranquility” which ultimately leads to success.

Champions League goal

If OM manages to deal with a hellish schedule (seven games in twenty-eight days if it reaches the European final), the team can finally fulfill its contract. “Playing the Champions League every year is an obligation. At the end of the season, OM must qualify for this competition,” hammered Frank McCourt at the dawn of this championship year. Ambition goes through this, the club has known this since the start of its owner’s “project”.

The pandemic in 2020 had offered him the place of dolphin by interrupting the championship after 28 days. The following European campaign had been catastrophic (only one victory in six games in the group stage). This season seems to be writing a much more constructed prologue. Like the beginning of a beautiful story.


Supporters allowed to travel

Fans will finally be able to support their team in the Netherlands. Banned from traveling for a few European matches, including those in Basel and Thessaloniki during the last two rounds of the Europa League Conference, they will be between 1,000 and 2,000 to push Dimitri Payet and his teammates to Rotterdam.

On the return, on May 5, the north bend of the Vélodrome stadium will however remain closed, a measure sanctioning the excesses observed during the reception of the Greeks from PAOK in the previous round. It had been considered for a time to open these 6,500 places to children licensed in OM’s partner clubs, but the project was abandoned for lack of sufficient security guarantees.



Beijing Olympics: biathlete Quentin Fillon Maillet Olympic pursuit champion

So here he is with two gold medals and two silver. Quentin Fillon Maillet became this Sunday, February 13 Olympic pursuit champion. After the two bronze medals won earlier in the day by the French delegation, the biathlete brings a tenth medal to France.

With this pursuit title, that of the individual and his two silver medals in the sprint and in the mixed relay, Quentin Fillon Maillet enters the legend of French sport, becoming the first French sportsman to win four medals during same edition of the Winter Games.

→ REREAD. Beijing Olympics: biathlete Quentin Fillon Maillet triples the bet

“Double Olympic champion! », he shouted as he crossed the finish line, before joining a small group of the French team to take the blue white red flag and celebrate this triumph won in dantesque wind conditions and under snow falling from harder and harder on the track.

Four podium appearances

Starting second in the chase 26 seconds behind his great rival, the Norwegian Johannes Boe, the 29-year-old Frenchman was perfect on the shooting range, blanking his twenty targets, unlike Boe, who missed two targets on his second prone shot, three on the first standing shot and another two on the last shot.

Shoulder to shoulder with the Russian Eduard Latypov, “QFM” put the pressure on the last biathlete who could prevent him from winning his second gold medal in China. Latypov’s fault on the last shot sealed the fate of the race, for a final lap in the form of a triumphal march.

→ MAINTENANCE. Beijing Olympics: Martin Fourcade salutes the “global mastery” of Quentin Fillon Maillet

Quentin Fillon Maillet achieves the feat of doing better in terms of appearances on the podium than the legend of French and planetary biathlon, Martin Fourcade. The latter returned with three podiums from the Sochi Games in 2014 (twice gold in the individual and pursuit, and once silver in the mass-start) and the PyeongChang Games in 2018 (three times the ‘ or on the pursuit, the mass-start and the mixed relay).



Beijing Olympics: Clément Noël Olympic slalom champion

Clément Noël became the 24-year-old Olympic slalom champion on Wednesday February 16 in Yanqing, bringing a fourth title and a thirteenth medal to France at the Beijing Olympics. He was 61 hundredths of a second ahead of Austrian Johannes Strolz, who won the combined title last week, and 70 hundredths of Norwegian world champion Sebastian Foss-Solevaag.

→ PORTRAIT. Beijing Olympics: Clément Noël, the quiet passion

Sixth in the first run, Clément Noël set the fastest time on the second course under a bright sun to win his first international medal after winning nine slaloms in the World Cup. He succeeds for France on the Olympic slalom list of Jean-Pierre Vidal (consecrated in 2002), Jean-Claude Killy (1968) and the sisters Christine (1964) and Marielle Goitschel (1968). He is the first French Olympic champion in alpine skiing since Antoine Dénériaz, winner of the downhill in 2006.

Disappointment for Alexis Pinturault

Clément Noël had shown himself at a very high level with a surprise fourth place at the PyeongChang Olympic Games in 2018. Since then, he has been world number two in the specialty three times (from 2019 to 2021).

→ REREAD. The harvest continues in biathlon, the H hour for Clément Noël in slalom… The Olympic recap of Tuesday, February 15

He won the Olympic title in the heart of an eventful winter: he had won the first slalom of the season in Val d’Isère before not getting back on the podium for the next five races, frustrated by recurring faults.

Alexis Pinturault, hampered by a painful shoulder, finished in an anonymous 16th place, and will leave the Games without an individual medal for the first time in his career.



Beijing Olympics: in the Olympic TGV

So there would be life outside the Olympic bubble. To see this, you have to leave the autarchy of the mountains and take the train. China is proud of it, of this high-speed machine, with a slender nose similar to the Japanese Shinkansen.

→ CHRONICLE. Beijing Olympics: the silence of the snow

This line was inaugurated just before the Olympic Games, in January. It connects the capital to the two other Olympic cities: Zhangjiakou and Yanqing. Games participants can take it for free, by booking in advance via an application.

Through the mountains

On an empty dock, a hostess is waiting for us with construction goggles over her eyes. Inside, a wooded 1980s decor. Rows of three and two seats. Part of the train is closed: we move in certain compartments only. In theory, there may be non-Games passengers in the other cars, but these were empty that day.

The 8:10 a.m. to Beijing noiselessly crosses arid steppes, freshly dusted with white snow from the weekend, and tinged with the yellow of the rising sun. Outside it is cold, very cold. The icy breeze bounces against the large windows. We pierce the mountains through long tunnels. At 350 km/h, the top speed.

desert landscapes

It takes fifty minutes to reach the capital from Zhangjiakou, compared to almost four hours by bus one way. The landscapes parade: the mountains, the hills, the plains with the large blocks of buildings under construction alongside the wind turbines. Then a frozen lake. And always this bluish atmosphere of cold dryness.

→ CHRONICLE. Beijing Olympics: the first flakes of Zhangjiakou

Everything seems, finally, to have been deserted. Small hamlets with houses with brick roofs are asleep under the snow. Nothing suggests that more than 20 million people live nearby. It is only at the entrance to the capital that one begins to notice a certain tremor. Cars, inhabited buildings. A life outside the bubble.



In Beijing, Winter Games in small Olympic form

The opening ceremony will promote comparison. The celebrations taking place in Beijing this Friday, February 4, to launch the 24are Winter Games, will give rise to a game of the seven errors. Fourteen years after the summer festivities of 2008, the Chinese capital is this time hosting the great white circus. An obvious fact: on the souvenir photo, the guests will be fewer this time.

→ DEBATE. Should we boycott the Beijing Olympics?

Because before talking about sport, it has been a question of politics for weeks. Of diplomatic boycott more precisely, certain heads of state brilliant by their absence in the stands of the National Stadium of Beijing. The United States launched the movement in late 2021 to protest China’s human rights abuses, including against Uyghurs. A few rare countries followed (United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Lithuania, Denmark, Japan). France, for its part, limited its representation to the sending during the fortnight of its Minister for Sports, Roxana Maracineanu.

Beijing, a default choice

“In 2008, President George W. Bush was present, Nicolas Sarkozy too, and in total more than 80 heads of state or government took part in the celebration. This time the list is much shorter. This boycott is anything but insignificant”insists Jean-Loup Chappelet, professor emeritus at the University of Lausanne and specialist in the Olympic world.

→ ANALYSIS. Beijing 2022 Olympics: geopolitics invites itself to the opening ceremony

Glass half empty or half full? “China will highlight the arrival of Vladimir Putin, Egyptian President Al-Sissi, Saudi Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and especially the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterresunderlines Carole Gomez, researcher in geopolitics of sport at the Institute of international and strategic relations. And it will be interesting to observe the privileged narrative during the opening ceremony: will there emerge a reflection on a world order not dictated by Westerners? »

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), which persists in displaying its political neutrality, would have done well without this attention focused on anything but sporting considerations. Should we come to Beijing after PyeongChang in 2018 and Tokyo last year? Let’s remember first that it’s a default choice, four European cities – Stockholm, Krakow, Lviv (Ukraine) and Oslo – having withdrawn to leave as candidates only China and Kazakhstan. “Turning towards the Asian continent has notably enabled the IOC to get out of its financial dependence on American sponsors and to balance its partnerships”, says historian Patrick Clastres. With the arrival of Toyota in 2015 and Alibaba in 2017, the IOC now has five American, five Asian and three European companies out of its 13 main sponsors.

Another point rarely mentioned, the actual holding of the Games in this period of health crisis. “Perhaps Japan and China were the best equipped countries to organize the Games despite the pandemicnotes Carole Gomez. They have demonstrated that we can postpone the Games, or receive them under a bubble. » There remains the ecological controversy. The photos of the ski area and of these snakes of artificial snow scratching the bare mountains were shocking, and underlined the lack of environmental concerns of the organizers.

For China, a booming “snow market”

With these Games, China is for its part pursuing an issue taken very seriously: the development of winter sports and related tourism. His government is also spinning the numbers: an ice and snow market increased from 38 billion euros in 2015 to 84 billion euros in 2020, with the prospect of 140 billion euros in 2025. 450 skating rinks and 300 ski resorts have been opened in the past six years and the goal “to introduce winter sports to 300 million Chinese” has been achieved, according to Li Sen, director of the planning department. of the Games Organizing Committee.

“These figures are very overstated.warns Benoît Robert, director of the Cluster Montagne association, which promotes French players in the development of mountain tourism around the world. China has invested a lot in recent years in resorts that are especially ideal for beginners, but with limited snow fields and therefore quite quickly crowded. The Chinese skier puts on skis less than two days a year on average, and the whole problem is to convert it to a sustainable practice. The 300 million mentioned by the government is a resort audience in the broad sense, for tourism and leisure. »

In terms of high-level sport, “Chinese champions on the Olympic podiums in alpine skiing, it’s probably not for now. Even if the government wants to convince and pushes the snow classes a lot to create the market of tomorrow”believes this connoisseur of the Chinese market.

Rather skeptical athletes

There is therefore still a lack in Asia of this “ski culture”, the absence of which many champions deplore. This long Asian streak lowers their enthusiasm. “For us Europeans, these two Olympics in countries where skiing is not really developed are quite frustrating.regrets the French cross-country skier Richard Jouve, bronze medalist in PyeongChang with his teammate Maurice Manificat. I’m not sure that all of this leaves great memories. »

→ ANALYSIS. Beijing Olympics: the great ambitions of a reduced French team

However, this reservation does not apply to all participants. On the contrary, ice cream specialists benefit from the continent’s appetite for their disciplines. In PyeongChang, 30 of the 39 medals gleaned by South Korea (17), Japan (13) and China (9) were on the ice.

“I understand the disappointment of some skiers or biathletes who experience crazy atmospheres at races in Europe. But for us, discovering the Asian craze is a real pleasure. In Korea, it was really crazy in the ice rink with the stands rumbling and the whole building shaking”says Tifany Huot-Marchand, the leader of the Blues of the short-track.

“Games with a real soul”

Most athletes do not confide more before their future Chinese adventure. Mix genres? Bad idea, reminded them of the instructions given before departure. “We advised them to stay on sport, we are not in Beijing to play politics”loose Nathalie Péchalat, head of the French Olympic delegation.

Without going that far, some nevertheless dare to evoke a malaise. In this game, biathlete Quentin Fillon Maillet hits the mark: “What I somewhat criticize the organizations that set up these Olympics is that they promote sharing, fairness, respect, but that sometimes we go to sites that are not not carrying these values. I would like us to think about Games with a real soul. »


Fifteen days on the right track

The opening ceremony. It is scheduled for Friday February 4 in the “Bird’s Nest”, the Olympic stadium of the 2008 Games. Due to the time difference (+ 7 a.m., 1 p.m. in Paris, 8 p.m. in Beijing), most of the events will take place at night and during the morning in France, until the closing ceremony, on February 20.

3,000 athletes are expected. This is almost four times less than for the Summer Games. They will compete in 15 sports and 109 events.

Seven new challenges. Included for the first time this year on the Olympic program are the women’s monobobsleigh, the men’s and women’s “big air” freestyle skiing competition, and four mixed events, in ski jumping, acrobatic jumping, snowboardcross and short-track.



Can the Olympics and politics go hand in hand?

Beijing hosts the Winter Olympics, but sport, for the time being, there is little question. Media attention has been focused primarily on international relations, especially since the announcement on December 6 of the diplomatic boycott of the competition by the United States. No representative of the US government will be present during the Olympic fortnight in Beijing, to protest against “Flagrant violations of human rights” concerning the Uyghur Muslim minority in Xinjiang.

→ READ. Beijing Olympics: no diplomatic boycott of France

A few nations very quickly aligned themselves with Washington: Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. Others procrastinated before defining their position. China responded with the threat of sanctions, after pointing out that “Mixing politics and sport went against the Olympic spirit”.

Can the Games and politics go hand in hand? The question is as old as the renovation of the Games in the twilight of the 19th century.e century. Pierre de Coubertin himself asserts from the outset that his project must be “From any political interference”. He is not naive, the refounding baron. But he knows that the claimed apolitism is the surest way to avoid criticism and ensure the independence of the nascent sports movement.

A long political history

Except that very quickly, another music is essential. “In the first three editions of the Games, in Athens in 1896, in Paris in 1900 and in Saint-Louis in 1904, the athletes compete in a private capacity or for their clubs, indicates historian Patrick Clastres, specialist in Olympic history. The drama – but also the success – of the Games is that from 1908 in London, they belong to national selections, and that changes everything. “

→ DEBATE. Should we boycott the Beijing Olympics?

State interests get involved, we know the rest: the vanquished excluded from the Games after the First World War in Antwerp in 1920, Nazi propaganda at the Berlin Games in 1936, the pride of Italy in 1960 or of Japan in 1964 which relaunched in the concert of nations with their Games in Rome and Tokyo, the successive boycotts of the Montreal Games in 1976 (the African nations against South Africa), of Moscow in 1980 and of Los Angeles in 1984, other areas of the Cold War, the attacks in Munich in 1972 (Palestinians) and Atlanta in 1996 (supremacists).

We could continue the enumeration, until the last episode of the series, this diplomatic boycott, therefore, against Beijing. “This type of boycott is not new, it was already under discussion when the 2008 Summer Games were awarded to China or the 2014 Winter Games to Russia,” recalls Carole Gomez, specialized in the geopolitics of sport at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (Iris). This time, its scope will depend on the number of countries which adopt it and on the diversity of these countries, in particular on the participation or not of Asian or African nations. The International Olympic Committee in any case welcomes it, too happy to have avoided the sports boycott. “

A facade of apoliticalism

In fact, the IOC hastened to put forward, as usual, its “Political neutrality”, even considering that the diplomatic boycott, while respecting the participation of athletes in the Beijing Games, showed a contrario and “Clearly” than the olympic games “Transcend political considerations”. Lady! The reasoning is very convenient.

“The IOC can hide behind this apoliticalism, these decisions are anyway interpreted politically, continues Patrick Clastres. So of course, we must remember that the IOC had little choice for these Winter Games, four European candidates having finally withdrawn their files, leaving only China and Kazakhstan in the race. The IOC was therefore somewhat trapped. However, he is making a serious mistake by not taking a position on human rights. It gives credence to the idea that these are not universal, as China in fact repeats. “

Even if the IOC clings to it in desperation, the apoliticalism of the Games does not resist contradiction. Better to keep your back round than to expose yourself to extreme complications or even more marked instrumentalisation. “The sport and political debate will last until the end of 2022 with the next World Cup in Qatar, predicts Carole Gomez. For the International Football Federation as for the IOC, this is a difficult course to pass. But the IOC can console itself by hoping for a future calmer streak on this front, with the series Paris (2024), Milan (2026), Los Angeles (2028) and Brisbane (2032). “ On this “democratic boulevard”, we will no doubt speak more of the medals than of their reverse.



Olympic Games: the opening ceremony of Paris 2024 will take place on the Seine

It will be a first in the history of the Summer Olympics. The board of directors of the Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (Cojo) in Paris in 2024 validated Monday, December 13 the principle of an unprecedented opening ceremony, outside a stadium, on the Seine.

More than 160 boats welcoming sportsmen and women from more than 200 delegations will parade on the river for nearly 6 kilometers between the Pont d’Austerlitz and the Pont d’Iéna, right in the center of Paris according to the plan. The end of the ceremony will be held on the Esplanade du Trocadéro.

The President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron formalized last July, on the sidelines of the Tokyo Olympics, this project which had raised reluctance on the side of the police, worried about being able to secure an event of such magnitude.

→ INVESTIGATION. Paris 2024: Games and jobs

“Today is a highlight. There are a lot of emotions, a lot of enthusiasm. The opening ceremony is necessarily the biggest scorer ”, said Tony Estanguet, boss of the Paris 2024 Games, during a press conference at the end of the Cojo board of directors.

Nearly fifty meetings to consider the project

The police would have liked to limit the public to 250,000 people while the organizers and the town hall of Paris were looking bigger, “Around 2 million people in the initial project”, had assured a source close to the town hall.

At the end of an interministerial committee devoted to the Paris Olympics a month ago in Seine-Saint-Denis, Prime Minister Jean Castex asked the Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin to formulate “Proposals” for event security “By the end of the year”. Nearly fifty meetings with all the authorities involved, from the Ministry of the Interior to the river institutions of the Seine through the town hall of Paris, were necessary to study the feasibility of the project likely to evolve.



Olympic Games: Onesta plan to glean more medals in Paris

For weeks, we could feel the pot boiling on the side of the high performance cell and its director Claude Onesta. Present on all fields in Tokyo, the former boss of the French multi-medal handball team, returned from Japan disappointed by the overall performance of French athletes. “We lacked perspective on the level of our athletes because the pandemic had stopped competitions around the world and disrupted training. We hoped to be at least at the level of Rio in 2016 and we are far below “, he observes.

→ ANALYSIS. Tokyo Olympics: for the Blues, the account is not so good

The Blues brought back only 33 medals, against 42 in Rio, and the extraordinary performance of team sports, such as the good results of judo and fencing, did not mask some severe accidents, in athletics and swimming. particularly. These two disciplines are particularly targeted by the plan of attack developed, Tuesday, October 5, by Claude Onesta, in the presence of the Minister of Sports, Roxana Maracineanu. They represent a major stake, giving alone more than 250 medals, that is to say nearly a quarter of the rewards distributed during an Olympiad.

Generalization of the high performance unit in federations

These federations and a few others will therefore be the subject of specific support and their management will henceforth be remote-controlled by the ministry and the performance unit headed by Claude Onesta. This violation of the rule of independence of federations is clearly supported by its supervising minister. Which is engaged in the recruitment of a new national technical director for athletics and a performance director, after the defection of the former cyclist Florian Rousseau who threw in the towel after Tokyo.

These two functions – development of mass practice and high-level supervision – today united under the hat of the national technical director, will be systematically duplicated. “This DTN function has become too broad, sometimes those who occupy these positions have never experienced a high level, so each federation must have its own high performance unit, which will work with us”, clarifies Claude Onesta.

Develop the culture of winning

For the former handball player, one of the great problems of French sport is the isolation of athletes with their personal trainer. “75% of athletes are not hosted in state centers, such as Insep and Creps (1). We must send personnel to these structures so that these technicians, often valuable, adhere to the methods allowing their athletes not only to perform well, but also to sublimate themselves on the day of the Olympic final ”, he explains.

→ OUR FILE OG 2024, the Olympic Games in France

This culture of winning, commonplace in Anglo-Saxon or Asian countries, is due to a multitude of details allowing, according to him, an athlete to be relaxed and confident when setting off. “It is not only a question of acting on the psychological level, but of progressing in all the fields, technical, physical, material, which constitute the performance. This is what I call the marginal gains theory, which allows the athlete to be sure that he is going to walk on water on D-Day, because if he does not have the assurance that everything has been done at best, it does not move forward. “

Concretely, the coaches will be better supported, including financially. “We ask guys paid 2,000 to 3,000 € to have an influence on a global competition while being available and sometimes away from home every weekend, it does not work”, he explains. Adding that many renowned French coaches, left to exercise their talents abroad for financial reasons, are being recalled.

Athletes too scattered over the territory

The geographic isolation of athletes also distances them from technical and medical resource centers. Performance houses, sort of regional correspondents for the cell headed by Claude Onesta, will therefore be set up. And the former boss of handball, used to dealing with professional athletes, also relies a lot on the goodwill of team sports clubs, used to managing their players’ problems in a few hours.

Large football and rugby clubs, such as Clermont, have been approached to provide physiotherapists, doctors, and even financial advice. “The first contacts are enthusiastic, because they are happy to help the Olympic movement. This will allow their players to socialize with other athletes and they will be able to communicate about their actions. In fact, everyone wins ”, he continues. Likewise, everyone has an interest in the France team being as efficient as possible in 2024.


Foundation stone for the Arena-Porte de la Chapelle

Anne Hidalgo laid the first stone of the “Arena-Porte de la Chapelle” on Tuesday, October 5, the only construction in Paris ahead of the 2024 Games. The intermediate level sports infrastructure (8,000 places) must accommodate during the Games badminton and rhythmic gymnastics, then para-badminton, para-taekwondo and para-weightlifting competitions. The hall must be delivered in 2023, and outside the Games, host Paris Basketball as a resident club from September 2023. It must also host shows, concerts, conferences, and meet the needs of the inhabitants of the district with the creation of two gymnasiums.