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In search of emotion, the public returns to French stadiums



Delighted, Hervé Beddeleem wears a broad smile when presenting his attendance figures. “When we look at the figures for the years preceding the health crisis, we realize that we have increased our classic subscriptions and our VIP subscriptions. » To explain such a situation, the executive director of BCM Basket (Gravelines-Dunkerque) believes that the maintenance of certain sports competitions, in times of Covid, has nevertheless allowed the public to “to keep a habit and an intimate attachment to sport, while cinemas were at a standstill and people were getting used to video platforms. »

Since the health crisis, the world of culture continues to suffer from public disaffection. The cinemas are gray, the theaters are empty. In this ambient slump, the world of sport stands out. In the stadiums, the public is back. According to Hervé Beddeleem, the festive spirit of a sporting event coincides with a desire of citizens to get together and celebrate positive things together.

“The return of the public would undoubtedly not have been followed without an adequate sports policy, which made it possible to bring in great players and to obtain results which encourage them to return to the stadium”he explains to justify the action of his club, faced with these new challenges. “We practiced special pricing by not increasing prices. Some were even lowered during the Coupe de France,” he remembers.

Implementation of strategies to reengage the public

This positive example does not reflect the whole of French sport. “The 2021-2022 season, which followed the crisis, was particularly difficult. The habits of the public have changed and add to an obvious problem of purchasing power”, tempers Fabien Roy, financial and administrative director of Fenix ​​Toulouse Handball. “We had as many spectators in total, but with the difference that we had twice as many matches, because of our qualification for the European Cup. That says a lot. »

Since the start of the school year, however, the trend seems encouraging: “We are back to our 2019 load factors, although it is a bit early to celebrate. » To remedy this, the club thought about a marketing strategy advocating the “spectacle stadium” where players make themselves available to the public, to encourage them to come to the stadium.

“Everyone plays the game, the players themselves are not above ground, they understand what is at stake”, explains Fabien Roy. The latter wishes to bet on a healthy collaboration between team sports: “Rugby and football players came to watch the handball matches. It’s up to the behemoths to give us a hand, if only to set an example. »

The most popular sports float

Football, the most popular sport in France, is benefiting from a substantial return of the public to sports venues. During the 2021-2022 season – the first full year after the health crisis – the occupancy rate of Ligue 1 stadiums was 73.9% compared to 73% in 2018-2019 and 71% the previous year, according to figures Professional Football League (LFP) officials. Nearly ten million supporters filled the stands of the various French stadiums last year.

These encouraging figures should not make us forget that, faced with its European competitors, the stands of the French championship are less attractive. In the Premier League, the English football championship, the occupancy rate fluctuates around 92%. In Germany, the rate remains around 95%. Only Spain and Italy seem to have lost spectators in recent years, still ensuring an occupancy rate of over 80%.

“We are going over the figures for 2019”

On the rugby side, while the first figures for the 2022-2023 financial year will soon be revealed, we are pleased with a rediscovered pre-Covid influx. “No doubt taking advantage of the 2023 World Cup effect and the good results of the Blues at the Six Nations Tournament, we see that we have achieved the best attendances in our stadiums for a decade”relates Thibault Brugeron, media manager for the National Rugby League. “This is due in particular to a massive communication campaign, at the end of the health crisis, to encourage people to return to the stadiums. »

Alain Béral, president of the National Basketball League, mentions an attendance rate in the stadiums of more than 80% this year. “We are in the process of going above the figures of 2019.”

For this leader, the aspect ” serial “ offered by the field of sport can explain the reasons for a return to normal. “Apart from obtaining broadcasting rights, which are certainly important, our priority for ten or fifteen years has been to bring people to the stadiums, which explains why our sport is perhaps ahead of others. others in France »testifies the latter.

Sport, a “personal commitment”

The main sports therefore seem to be doing well. For Robin Recours, lecturer at the Faculty of Sports Sciences in Montpellier, this is explained by “the immense catharsis space” offered by sports fields. It can be played “all the dramas of humanity. We can experience, during a match, a gigantic palette of emotions, ranging from laughter to tears, from anxiety to deliverance, from anger to sadness or joy. explains the historian.

Unlike the world of music or the theater, there are also strong personal identifications with the product in the consumption of sporting events. “An amateur basketball player identifies as a basketball player. It is therefore important for him to practice his sport but also to see what is happening on professional grounds. »

“Few shows allow such an identification, such a personal commitment to consumption”, continues Robin Recourse. Moreover, sport remains a space in which consumers often feel expert. “It’s the famous adage: we live in a country of 66 million breeders who have a clear opinion”recalls the historian.

As for stadium occupancy rates, Robin Recours believes that sports federations in France are “Historically amateur federations and have taken a long time to become professional”.“There is a conservatism on the side of sports federations when it comes to marketing the entertainment world”continues the researcher. “So if France is not a sporting country, it’s more because of a lack of resources than a lack of culture. »

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Ever bigger speakers

With more than 80,000 seats, the Stade de France remains the largest sports arena in France, ahead of the Vélodrome de Marseille (more than 67,000 seats) and the Groupama Stadium in Lyon (59,000 seats).

England has more imposing structures, with the stadiums of Wembley (90,000 seats) and Old Trafford (nearly 76,000 seats). In Spain, the Camp Nou welcomes more than 99,000 visitors. A record in Europe.

On the occasion of the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, a new enclosure will see the light of day in the heart of Paris, Porte de la Chapelle. The future 7,800-seat “Adidas Arena” stadium will host badminton and gymnastics events.

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2022 World Cup: women’s rugby in search of a development model



The Blues of 1991 had embarked a little on the spur of the moment, at the last moment, in a first Women’s World Cup in Wales that even the International Rugby Board – the governing body of the world rugby (now World Rugby) – did not recognize then. The outfits weren’t quite complete, nor was the technical coaching, and it wasn’t any better on the opponents’ side. The Americans, future winners of the tournament, had thus multiplied the odd jobs to pay for the trip.

“It was another time, another world”, smiles Annick Hayraud, then scrum half of this XV of pioneers. The now manager of the France team, who is starting the ninth edition of this Women’s Rugby World Cup this Saturday, October 8 against South Africa, can measure the progress made. “It took several years for the rugby family to recognize us, and many more to have the real means of performanceshe points out. We can consider that things evolve too slowly, but changing mentalities always takes a long time. »

Ignition delay

In a very virile discipline, the steps are necessarily high, and the valiant ovalies have long watched the cousins ​​of football, or those of handball and basketball, enriching their Olympic records. They only obtained the status of high-level sportswomen at the turn of the century and had to wait for the 2014 World Cup, organized in France, to attract the curiosity of the general public, then 2018 for the fifteen players to land their first professional federal contracts. . Poor relation of tricolor collective sport, women’s rugby?

At the level of the national selection, the delay is catching up. But, more broadly, the discipline is still waiting for its big night. In 2016, the structuring of the women’s sector is indeed included in the program of Bernard Laporte, candidate for the presidency of the FFR. After his election, however, it is the showcase of the France team which is privileged, the rest being jostled by other priorities, including the men’s XV.

“We may have been a little late in the ignition, but I came into 2020 with a mission to put the overdrive”, assures Brigitte Jugla. The former player of the 1990s, for two years vice-president of the FFR in charge of the women’s sector, is thus working on the move upmarket of a championship which is always looking for the right formula.

An ever-floating championship

A time reduced to eight clubs, then increased to 16 in 2018, upset by the Covid and again limited to 14 last year, it is set at 12 teams for the next season, which will be launched after the World Cup. “We must imperatively harmonize the clubs to avoid differences in level between themsays Brigitte Jugla. This is the condition for having an attractive product, which we can then present to distributors and future partners. »

To find this balance, the manager is betting on new specifications, drawn up with the clubs, to be tested next season before becoming compulsory in 2023-2024. It defines a number of constraints in terms of technical, medical, training, “in order to best support the players in their practice but also in their socio-professional development”, says Brigitte Jugla. Who, in the momentum, works on the development “a strategic development plan for the women’s sector by 2033”. A revolution ? At least visibility “a roadmap to finally target budgets and define areas for resolution”.

Knowing where to go, the clubs ask for nothing better. Because, for now, it’s still often every man for himself. A track emerges all the same: to rely on a professional men’s club. Seven of the twelve clubs in the Elite championship are now playing a more or less advanced rapprochement (in Bordeaux, Clermont-Ferrand, Grenoble, Lyon, Montpellier, Pau, Toulouse).

ASM Romagnat, champion of France in 2021, has thus established a partnership since 2016 with ASM Clermont Auvergne which gives it access to certain equipment for male professionals. “We remain independent, but this pooling is interestingcomments its president Marie Magignot. No doubt the future will involve more intense collaboration, because structuring oneself within the framework of the new specifications without money being put on the table will be complicated. »

Financial resources still limited

Co-founder in 2003 of the women’s section of AC Bobigby 93, the only club in the Ile-de-France in the elite, Marc-Henri Kugler does not say anything else. “We hold on thanks to our huge pool of players in our territory, and the support, in particular, of local communities. But there is no economy of women’s rugby yet. We are certainly getting closer to other high-level sports, but with a real-false amateurism, by helping the girls with accommodation, with match bonuses, by finding them odd jobs. And on this level, difficult to put all the clubs on the same starting line. »

Money, sinews of war, of course. AC Bobigny evokes a budget of 220,000 €, AS Romagnat between 400,000 and 500,000 €. In Blagnac, a finalist team in the last French championship won by Stade Toulouse, coach Nicolas Tranier speaks of 200,000 to 250,000 € dedicated to girls but included in the budget of Blagnac rugby, the men’s club playing in National (equivalent to the 3e division).

“Tomorrow, the clubs will probably not be able to professionalize 30 players, and that’s what makes all the difference with handball or basketball, but it will be necessary to contract some of them and probably also the coaching”believes the technician whose team is the one that provides the most Blue, with nine players present at the World Cup in New Zealand.

“In the meantime, everyone cooksregrets Marie Magignot. The Federation wants to put everything flat, but no doubt it will take time, and the current system is not really fair, when clubs like Blagnac, Bordeaux or Toulouse benefit from many players contracted with the Bleues while we we only have one. »

Moving forward together is the difficulty of a women’s rugby full of desires but still on the wire. “To pursue individualistic logics too much, we risk destroying more than buildingwarns Brigitte Jugla. I want to get everyone around the table so as not to miss the boat. Our rugby schools are full, and in June 2022 we had nearly 43,000 licensees, compared to 26,000 at the start of 2021. We are really on the right track. » Even if no one sees the end of the road yet.

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A 12-nation Women’s World Cup

Since 1991, the Women’s World Cup has hosted 12 nations. But this 9e New Zealand edition is the last in this format. From 2025, the competition will host 16 selections.

The teams are divided into three pools. Pool A: Australia, Scotland, New Zealand, Wales. Group B: Canada, United States, Italy, Japan. Group C: South Africa, England, France, Fiji. The first two from each group and the two best third are qualified for the quarter-finals.

The Blue program: France-South Africa (October 8 at 3:15 a.m.), England-France (October 15 at 9 a.m.), France-Fiji (October 22 at 8:15 a.m.). The matches will be broadcast on TF1.

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Sports

In search of funding, the sports world seizes on NFTs



On May 17, the Sedan Ardennes Sports Club (CSSA) is launching its collection of “non-fungible tokens” (or NFT, for Non-Fungible Token). Sorry ? Who does what ? Yes, the Sedan football club, illustrious for its unexpected final of the Coupe de France in 1999 and its unexpected adventure in Ligue 1 the same year and continued until 2003, which today points to National 1 (the third division) , dare the bet NFT, these digital assets whose title of ownership is guaranteed by a particular technology, the blockchain.

→ EXPLANATION. What are NFTs, this new digital passion?

In concrete terms, the CSSA will produce exactly 11,011 digital cards bearing the image of the club’s mascot, a wild boar. Each is obviously unique, and these cards can be acquired from next May for a few “ethers”, a cryptocurrency competing with bitcoin. Buyers will then benefit from some special advantages involving them in the life of the club.

Leading sectors: luxury and sport

It is this dimension that its president, Marc Dubois, wants to emphasize first: “We want to expand and retain a community of fans well beyond our small department, which has less than 270,000 inhabitants”, he says. The economic dimension is obviously also present. Even if it is difficult for a National team to sell its image, any source of income is good to take “for a club born in 1919 and which has never managed to balance its accounts”summarizes Marc Dubois.

The CSSA is in fact not the only one to want to explore this innovative digital field. “The two sectors investing the most in this ecosystem today are luxury and sport”assures Emmanuelle Dubois, co-founder of the Coinception agency, which supports Sedan in its NFT offer.

In fact, not a day goes by without a club or athlete announcing their conversion to NFTs or other cryptoassets such as tokens. The success of the French start-up Sorare, which publishes collectible NFTs of some 6,000 footballers, valued at nearly 4 billion euros in the fall of 2021, is bound to inspire. In February 2022, one of his unique cards, that of Norwegian striker Erling Haaland, sold for more than €600,000.

→ EXPLANATION. Sorare becomes the most expensive start-up in France

The former coach of the XV of France (2007-2011) Marc Lievremont and the ex-footballer of the PSG Alain Roche, associated with the company Sponsorlive, hope to crunch the success with Fanlivecards, a collection dedicated to rugby launched this month of april. Tennis coach Patrick Miratoglou put a collection called “The Coach” on sale at the end of March, after which buyers could be invited to matches or personalized coaching sessions. In November 2021, Belgian Jumbo-Visma cyclist Wout Van Aert auctioned three “sporting moments”, NFTs of his victories in the 2021 Tour at Ventoux and on the Champs-Élysées, and the classic Strade Bianche in 2020. All sold for €47,000.

The risks of a very speculative universe

If these NFTs are later resold, each new transaction should earn a percentage for the champion and his team. For these rugby cards, Marc Lievremont promises 30% for clubs and 10% for players. “The current craze shows to what extent sports players are looking for new income, in particular to replace online bettors whose sponsorship is increasingly prohibited in Europe.underlines the economist Jérémie Bastien, teacher at the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne. But for the time being, NFTs are not yet bringing them much, and it is above all the digital players who are doing well.”

→ ANALYSIS. Art, luxury and video games, NFT “digital tokens” are popular

Is the nascent market destined to develop to become unavoidable? Its strengths are real. “NFTs establish a direct link with supporters, which is very valuable from a marketing point of view, and these digital products being much easier to sell than traditional derivative products, they also make it possible to reach an audience all over the world”recalls economist Philippe Herlin, a specialist in monetary issues.

But the expert also points to the main limit of the system in the making: speculation. “When you buy an NFT, you are making a double bet. On the intrinsic value of the NFT first, which in the long term is not obvious: what will a Messi NFT be worth in five years? On the value of the cryptocurrency which is then used for exchanges, the course of which is also volatile. I am not sure that this double risk is well taken into account. »

It prevents. NFTs are on the rise, and clubs are watching with interest the technological promises of tomorrow, as observed by Emmanuelle Dubois, who concludes: “When our interlocutors hear about Web3, the new generation of the Internet, and virtual universes like the metaverse, they say to themselves that we shouldn’t miss the boat. »

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Crazy about tokens

Tokens are another kind of digital “tokens”. Also sold in cryptocurrency, they allow passionate buyers to have certain privileges, for example to vote for the sentence to be inscribed on the armband of the captain of a football club. PSG, Manchester City, Juventus or Barcelona, ​​among others, publish it. About 3% of Lionel Messi’s salary at PSG is paid in tokens.

The basketball club L’Élan Béarnais Pau-Lacq-Orthez will innovate on April 26 by opening part of its capital to the general public in the form of tokens. “It will be a world first”has just announced the Courtepointe Sports Group, the American investor who bought the club in June 2021.

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Sports

Beijing Olympics: the long quest for the tricolor bobsleigh



He must find the key. The way to tackle two or three curves to gain those precious hundredths of a second that can change everything. “I have a very precise idea of ​​three quarters of the track, but I’m still looking for the ideal trajectory on a sequence of three corners in the middle of the descent. If I succeed, behind, I will have fun, “ hopes Romain Heinrich.

Almost ten years of the tricolor pilot’s life will be played out there, in the ice tunnel of the Beijing Games bobsleigh event, which begins with its two-man version this Monday, February 14 at the Yanqing National Sliding Center.

→ PORTRAIT. Romain Heinrich, gifted captain of the tricolor bobsleigh

Because it starts from afar, the tricolor bobsleigh which tumbles into China. Almost nothing existed in the discipline after the retirement in 2006 of Bruno Mingeon, the man at the five Olympic Games rewarded with bronze in Nagano in 1998, a divine surprise for a sport with a non-existent culture in France.

In 2011, however, a bunch of crazy people decided to do it again. It’s a lost cause apparently, as the means are lacking, the French Ice Sports Federation preferring to put all its eggs in another basket.

The pusher becomes a pilot

Whatever. Enthusiasts manage to qualify two bobsleighs in Sochi. They won’t go very far in the standings but will show that when you want, you can.

Romain Heinrich is one of them, and he learns the lesson. He participated as a pusher, big arms in the back to launch the car. He sees himself continuing for the PyeongChang Games, but as a pilot. “It was quite a risk, because Romain had his place as a pusher, while at the controls, his selection was no longer at all acquired”, says Alexandre Vanhoutte, now director of the French bobsleigh team.

But the professional engineer learns quickly and well. He believes in it so much that he invests his home savings plan in the business. It’s not free. He burns the stages and wins his qualification in PyeongChang on the 2-man bobsleigh.

The Korean adventure ends in an encouraging 13th place. So here is our man propelled project manager for the next Olympiad, for the bobsleigh at 2 but also at 4. “All forces were concentrated on his crew, with the firm intention of aiming for a medal in Beijing”, explains Alexandre Vanhoutte.

The first two years started the business well, with convincing results in the World Cup and incursions into the top 6 of the circuit. And then the Covid and the upheavals within a French Ice Sports Federation in full restructuring came to complicate the situation.

“The overall budget has been reduced and this Olympic year is paradoxically the most difficult financially, continues the director of the France team. Fortunately, the achievements of previous years make it possible to maintain a certain momentum. »

Securing the legacy

Adaptation is an essential quality for anyone who claims to bring bobsleigh to life in France. “Of course, if you compare yourself to a leading nation like Germany, there is a lack, notes Romain Heinrich. The status of the pushers is still a point of difficulty, with for example two scholarships from the National Sports Agency that must be shared by three. I am also personally contributing €40,000 to the project. But I don’t want to be miserable. We can be proud of our structure in recent years. However, this remains fragile, and obviously very dependent on the results. »

For Beijing, the Blues have long relied on the 2-man bobsleigh, until repeated injuries poison the preparation of pusher Dorian Hauterville. “To win, you have to combine three things: very precise piloting, high-performance equipment, and very powerful thrust, details Alexandre Vanhoutte. Romain is one of the most regular pilots on the circuit, the development of the bobsleigh is very satisfactory, but the thrust remains a step below which perhaps prevents us from aiming for the podium. »

Although Romain Heinrich particularly appreciates the very technical Beijing track, he knows that the challenge remains immense. “The Germans are still far ahead, with a considerable material lead thanks to innovations on the rear axle of the bobsleigh which increases the contact time and therefore the glide of their machine. Then there is an exceptional generation of pilots among the Swiss and the Russians. Then, between fourth and twelfth place, everything is very tight. »

The pilot crosses his fingers to follow the best, a story that his long quest inspires and does not end, as in 2006, with a bobsleigh abandoned on a siding. He does not yet know if he will come back on board after Beijing. “Next April, I have a promise of employment for a post of engineer with responsibilities. For sport, I would see ”, he lets go.

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Tokyo Olympics: French athletics in search of a new lease of life



“French athletics looking for a medalist”. The ad could have been passed as it is, as the discipline seems to be going through a bad patch among the French. A sad anniversary reminds him of the Olympic Games in Tokyo, that of nine years without a gold medal – the last dates back to London, in 2012, won by Renaud Lavillenie on pole vault.

In running, the last title even dates from a time that the under 20s cannot know: 1996, with the two victories of Marie-José Pérec, over 200 and 400 meters.

→ READ. French sportsmen find their colors in Tokyo

Beyond the quest for the ultimate reward, France does not seem able to achieve the six medals gleaned in Rio in 2016, even if the potential is “From five to six medals”, according to the president of the French athletics federation, André Giraud, who sets the objective of “Regain an Olympic title”. But among the contingent of 66 athletes, barely a handful can claim the coronation in Tokyo.

Kevin Mayer in the thorny favorite costume

One of the expected figures is already out of the game: Mélina Robert-Michon, the Olympic vice-champion in the discus throw. For her sixth Games, she was ousted in qualifying, Saturday July 30, to everyone’s surprise. Another seems weakened: Renaud Lavillenie, who returns from an ankle injury. He went very close to elimination before getting his ticket to the final, scheduled for Tuesday, August 3.

→ LARGE FORMAT. Tokyo Olympics: Mélina Robert-Michon, everything for a gold record

There remains Kevin Mayer, the silver decathlete in Rio, and world record holder since. He will hit the track on Wednesday August 4 with the thorny favorite costume. The Hammer Throwers Alexandra Tavernier (4e world) and Quentin Bigot (5e) could also achieve the feat.

Significant deficiencies in the sprint

But behind these headliners, French athletics is struggling. Especially in the sprint, where the deficiencies are important. A single representative in the 100 meters for men: Jimmy Vicaut, released in the semifinals on Sunday 1er August after a season complicated by injuries and a lack of races. No representative among women. The reverse at 200 meters. It stalls, we are in a hollow, recognizes André Giraud. There were times when we had immense champions. But nothing is linear in sport. “

In the middle distance, the hopes of the final were showered for Pierre-Ambroise Bosse, the 2017 world champion over 800 m, sixth in his semi-final on Sunday 1er August, in pain. But the young Gabriel Tual (23), third in his race, managed to qualify on time.

“The Paris Games will arrive very quickly”

It is on this young guard that the France team counts for 2024. Behind the known figures, there are indeed all those ” who were not yet born when Mélina Robert-Michon discovered the Games in 2000, in Sydney ”, in the words of Florian Rousseau, the director of high performance. In Tokyo, their results are not yet at the rendezvous: Cyréna Samba-Mayela (20 years old) did not start the 100 m hurdles after a pain felt during the warm-up and the pole vaulter Ethan Cormont (20 years) failed to qualify for the pole vault final.

→ ANALYSIS. Olympics: in Tokyo, Paris 2024 in sight for the French

Sprinter Gémima Joseph (19) is expected in the 200m on Monday August 2. Ludovic Ouceni (20 years old) on 4 x 400 m on Friday August 6. “We are already working on this young generation, the Paris Games will arrive very quickly”, put Florian Rousseau. The harvest of medals at the European hopefuls championship in Tallinn (Estonia) in July may augur well for a bright future.

The “Insep syndrome”

To make sure of this, one of the important axes of work today relates to the accompaniment of the overseas hopes, which always represented “An important contribution”, notes André Giraud. In Tokyo, ten of the Blues of the delegation are from overseas.

The federation has lost many of these promising young people by wanting at all costs to support them at the National Institute of Sport in Paris. What the president calls the ” Insep syndrome “. It is absolutely necessary to put in place a system that allows you to pursue your career without family uprooting., he continues. This requires in particular the close relations that we have with local communities..

Ludvy Vaillant, 26, will not say the opposite. He still trains on his native island, Martinique. It is important to stay at home. Champions train with their entourage. Why should we ultramarines leave our environment?, he supports after his elimination in the semi-finals of the 400 m hurdles on Sunday 1er August. Before making a wish: “We should put in place more infrastructure. In Martinique, we only have two good quality stadiums, which is not enough. “

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Esports in search of recognition in Japan



Contrary to what one would tend to think, e-sport – the practice of video games in competition – is struggling to take off in Japan. The discipline does not know the same enthusiasm as in South Korea, the United States or China.

According to an estimate from NewZoo, a Dutch company specializing in analyzes of the video game sector, e-sport represents a market of 900 million euros worldwide in 2021, up 230% compared to 2016. Players famous people win bonuses of several million euros, for example in a competition like The International, a tournament played on the strategy game DOTA 2. Even the International Olympic Committee (IOC) plans to make e-disciplines medal. sport for the Los Angeles Games in 2028.

But Japan, despite being the source of many video games, is ” very late “, regrets Hirokazu Hamamura, vice-president of the Japan Electronic Sports Union, founded in 2018. “Despite strong growth in recent years, the country’s market is only 50 million euros. “

Japan is lagging behind

According to him, the discipline is above all a victim of the success of video games, very popular, which are played on consoles (Playstation and Nintendo in the lead), unlike e-sport which is played on a computer. “It’s a shame, because everyone can take part in an esports match on an equal footing, regardless of age, sex, body type”, he explains.

→ CHRONICLE. Japan: the sports manga, the ideal genre

Chikara Kawakami, former professional esports player known by his pseudonym Shaka, also laments the delay Japan has taken in the field. “I have always dreamed of becoming a professional, but it is only in recent years that we have teams capable of guaranteeing economic stability to their players., he emphasizes.

A “promising area”

Can Japan catch up? The country’s market is expected to grow by 214% by 2024, predicts a study by the Kadokawa Ascii Research Laboratories. The discipline now enjoys the support of the Ministry of the Economy, which sees it as a “Promising area”.

→ READ. This “e-sport” which disturbs the sporting world

In the process, around fifteen teams with significant financial resources were created, allowing young people to dream of a professional career. “For the popularity of esports to explode in Japan, only one player of international level remains”, put Hirokazu Hamamura.

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Tokyo Olympics: in search of new challenges, French coaches export their know-how



It all started with a transaction, over eight years ago, in a small town in Maine-et-Loire. That day, Maxime Livio, international eventing rider at the head of a stable, receives an unusual visit. That of the trainer of the second daughter of the King of Thailand. If he is in the Saumur countryside, it is to find a horse for the princess. He does business in the Livio stable.

→ THE FACTS. Tokyo Olympics: Jean Quiquampoix in gold with a speed gun, after the Rio silver

“He was taking care of the eventing team, and asked me if I wanted to accompany them to the Games., he says today.It was a time when I seized a lot of opportunities, it was a very good one. “ Maxime Livio says yes. His stable welcomes the team’s mounts, and the three riders make regular trips back and forth between their country and France.

“In Thailand, I am received in an incredible way”

Eight years later, the team competed in Tokyo for its first Olympic Games. Without convincing results, but with hope for the future. “We went up a notch by qualifying”, rejoices the coach.

From a personal point of view, the 30-something is also satisfied: Every time I go to Thailand I am received in an incredible way. Work and investment are recognized. In French culture, when you’re good, it’s considered normal. While with them, it is underlined and noticed.

A “fracture” to which several coaches testify. In pole vault, fencing, horseback riding, track cycling, etc. In these disciplines where France shines or has shone, many technicians choose to leave France to try their luck elsewhere.

Better earn a living

One of the best known is Damien Inocencio, who coached famous pole vaulter Renaud Lavillenie to his Olympic title in London in 2012, before the champion decided to part ways with him. He then turned to China, a country where perch is far from being a specialty. And where the pay is markedly different, he says: “In France, there is no way to make a living as a pole vault coach, it’s a living, it’s survival. “

The Clermontois brings his athletes to France and regularly stays in China… outside of the pandemic. Because of the border closures, he had to train Chinese Huiqin Xu, who qualified for the Olympics, on video. In Tokyo, he will also accompany Switzerland’s Angelica Moser, with whom he started working in 2020. “My contract with China ends after the Olympics, I needed another activity to be safe”, he explains. This is the flip side : “After each Olympics, I can lose my job. We are more in competition. But putting yourself in danger allows you to progress! “

The Blues, “competitors like the others”

A mantra that sticks to Benoît Vêtu, the French coach of Japanese track cycling, previously passed through Russia and China, after leaving the French federation in 2012. “In France, whether we succeed or lose at the Games, it didn’t change anything. Today, I have a pressure that I did not have before. There are big expectations, this tension is a driving force for me ”, describes one who moved to Japan with his family. If he still had a little heart in France the first year, he now considers the Blues as “Competitors like the others”.

→ READ. Olympic Games: why the best in the world are not always there

And the language barrier that forces him to work with an interpreter? “I found an advantage there. We speak a little slower, we take the time to think about what we are going to say “, he smiles. In the land of keirin (a track cycling competition, editor’s note), the performance of his team will be particularly scrutinized.

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