two years before the Paris Olympics, why sport is absent from the campaign

7:00 PM, March 9, 2022

None of the seventy proposals from Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris whose city will host the Olympic Games in 2024, are dedicated to it. It is also the great absence of “first pillars of the Ériz Zemmour program” that his teams have published on his campaign website and it is not central to the thematic booklets that complement the programs of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Marine Le Pen. A few weeks before the presidential election, sport is one of the big absentees from the election debates. An absence that is not only the result of the health crisis, nor of the war in Ukraine. ‘Sport too often appears to be a secondary theme in presidential campaign’ Brigitte Henriques recalled in a column that appeared in the newspaper at the end of February The world.

Like the president of the French Olympic Committee, Carole Gomez, research director of the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (Iris), challenged the candidates in another forum published daily a few months earlier in the evening. “With the health crisis, we have put a lot of emphasis on sports practice and the fragility of the sports ecosystem, but in a very general way, she explains to the JDD. But when we got out of the urgency of the situation, that reflection stopped. It is all the more frustrating given the French agenda. †

Sport seen for the first time under the prism of daily practice

Olympic Games in Paris 2024, Ski World Championships in Courchevel in 2023, Rugby World Cup across the country in 2023… These events are the result of a strategy implemented since the 2010s, leading to the appointment of an ambassador for sport. soft power in the next two years. “Do we continue with the sporting diplomatic strategy, should it evolve, stop? », asks Carole Gomez, who is sorry the question isn’t even asked.

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As sport is not a central element of their election promises, sport is nevertheless the subject of scattered proposals, often included in the extension of a health or education policy rather than a specific sport policy. Valérie Pécresse stands out, she even dedicates a full role to it in the presentation of her program on her website and is the one who rejects most of the proposals on this subject. On the thirty-three pages of Yannick Jadot’s program, sports are mentioned in a subsection of the chapter “Reconstruction of a public health service”.

Before his first Poissy campaign meeting, Emmanuel Macron announced that he would “30 minutes of sport at school per day for children aged 6 to 12” next fall. “The thirty minutes of sport a day, it is true that there is a question about that, admits to the JDD Pierre Rondeau, sports economist. But when rural sport is mentioned, it is always in everyday practice. Tax deductions, contract, athlete protection, transfer system reform… None of this fits the presidential debate. We have the impression that the sport only concerns people who play football on a municipal field. While there are professional leagues and a whole economy! †

Marc Madiot, from the Groupama-FDJ team, asks “ promoting professional sport in France »

The specialist emphasizes that sport creates jobs, an aspect that is all too often neglected. “Today I am in charge of a cycling team that brings together a hundred people, it is like a large SME, says Marc Madiot, the general manager of the Groupama-FDJ team at the request of the JDD. Reforms must certainly be made in the field of VAT, taxes… I am not an economist, but we must promote professional sport in France. We have the Olympics in 2024, I have not seen any incentives. † Another thing he adds that he hasn’t seen or heard of in the media when he says he follows the news: candidates talking about their commitments to the sport.

We will never blame the candidate for not having a specific sports program

How to explain this absence? “Sport has never been highly regarded by the French ruling elites who see it as a hobby, analyzes Pierre Rondeau. In Anglo-Saxon societies, sport rules the universities and was professionalized very early on. † However, if sport is one of the unthinkable campaigns, it is a means of communication.

Since the start of the campaign, Éric Zemmour has staged himself playing football and tennis, while Emmanuel Macron played for the Variétés Club de France last October. In fact, sport, and more specifically football, is a widely used political marker. François Hollande has repeatedly stated that he is close to Red Star, a popular club in the northern suburbs of Paris, while Nicolas Sarkozy’s heart leans more towards PSG’s five-star team.

Another explanation put forward: sport is reduced to the absolute minimum in the race for the Élysée, because it has little electoral benefit to politicians. “I was even told that we would never blame the candidate for not having a specific sports program,” details Pierre Rondeau, involved in Benoit Hamon’s campaign in 2017. However, an Odoxa poll published at the end of February estimated that for 43% of French people sports policy issues are not mentioned enough in the campaign, a figure that rises to 57% if we limit ourselves to sports enthusiasts.

The candidates invited to a great oral on sports on March 17th

Former cyclist Marc Madiot is doing well. “It’s our fault too, he admits. The sports world doesn’t speak out enough on this topic when there’s a lot to say. A little about the functioning of the federations. I’m 62 years old, I’ve had a driver’s license since I was 14 and I’ve never held a ballot in my hands! We also need to ask ourselves how we can protect volunteers and make France more economically competitive. †

Philippe Diallo, president of Cosmos, an organization representing sports employers, finds the situation all the more paradoxical as 16 million French people have a sports license. “If we add up the French who have an exercise like jogging, it goes to one in two,” he reports to the JDD. Sport would thus be the activity that brings most French people together.

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If he often undermines a cultural aspect of a country “the place of the body in favor of the place of the mind”, Philippe Diallo believes that the biggest obstacle remains the fact that sport is not seen as electorally promising, even though it is taken into account by local elected officials. “An additional paradox”, he summarizes. This Thursday, March 17, several political representatives of French sport – including Cosmos – invited the candidates to a great oral presentation to present their vision and their commitments to the world of sport. Goal for Philippe Diallo: “To show that, given the social, health and economic importance of sport, you can also indicate your intentions, such as during the Agricultural Fair. †