The tricolor sport more efficient than what is said!
SPORT BUSINESS OBSERVATORY – Often criticized for the weakness of its support, France nevertheless ranks 2nd in the world according to the WRCES ranking.
Holder of a Master’s degree from the Sorbonne, specializing in issues relating to Latin America, Mathieu Sauvajot first wrote articles dealing with the geopolitics and economy of this continent, before turning to the field of sport. He is now an editor with the Observatoire du Sport Business.
Often criticized for the weakness of its political, economic and even popular support, sometimes perceived as mediocre in its educational system, France nevertheless ranks 2nd in the world according to the WRCES ranking, but if high-level sport regularly manages to shine, the stakes are elsewhere, namely on the side of public health.
The false Olympic reference
If the French are generally proud to be part of a nation recognized for its history, its heritage and its gastronomy, it is not the same when the time comes to support our athletes. Let’s admit it, which of us has never smiled in front of one of their defeats, affirming the air as little surprised as satisfied, that decidedly, France is not a sporting country. However, despite this tendency to self-flagellation well anchored in morals, France shines on a global scale thanks to high-level sport, if we take care to analyze the performances of our champions beyond the podiums.
Beyond a somewhat defeatist state of mind, it is true that the few medals won at the Olympic Games (10th place at the Tokyo Olympics) does not help the case, this classification making de facto figure of authority in the collective imagination and yet, he is not free from flaws. First of all, one could criticize the absence of certain leading sports such as car racing, rugby union or more recently MMA, to name a few, as well as the value given to medals. It is undoubtedly legitimate that quality prevails over quantity, but what about the nations accumulating the silver and bronze medals, located behind those winning in all and for all a single gold medal?
Moreover, their abnormally high number in certain disciplines of little interest to the general public, to the detriment of others that are so much more popular, underlines how much the universality of the sports practiced is set aside when the time comes to distribute the rewards. While basketball, a sport played in more than 206 countries, offers only two gold medals, one for the men’s team and another for the women’s team, sailing, a sport present in 115 countries and whose practice is unless democratized, generates a dozen. The situation is the same for football, where the final of the FIFA World Cup brought together 1.5 billion viewers, the Olympic Committee is, once again, only two medals at stake. The level of the athletes in certain disciplines can also be subject to debate, the rigidity of the regulations having for example prevented professional boxers from participating before the 2016 edition.
Fortunately, other tools exist to measure the performance of countries in the world of high-level sport. Based on internationally recognized scientific work, Professor Nadim Nassif has developed a platform for evaluating sports policies World Sports Ranking : “The WRCES is an accurate index that gives a holistic assessment of nations when it comes to elite sport. By cross-referencing this tool with the obesity rate, the prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) and economic power (GDP), it is now possible to analyze the performance of sports facilities in each state.”
The French exception?
Now runner-up to the unbeatable United States, France can of course be proud of its rank as well as the progress made in recent years, but it is all the more interesting to understand the reasons.
Plurality is undoubtedly the key word here, starting with that of the disciplines in which our country shines. Vice-world football champion in 2022, favorite for the world rugby union scheduled for next fall and much more, France does not always win, but is rarely absent from the podiums. It is not our athletes who will say the opposite, because there is no shortage of world references in their respective disciplines, from Kylian Mbappé to Caroline Garcia via Fabio Quartararo, without forgetting either Ciryl Gane, challenger unfortunate at UFC 285.
Of course, the fact that the tricolor sport has rarely been so high is not due to chance. To explain this, some will praise the quality and variety of infrastructures present throughout the territory, others will say, rightly, that the very particular topography of France allows us to be as competitive in summer as in winter. winter, both in water and land sports. As for our politicians, sometimes too optimistic perhaps, they try to believe in the importance of the place of sport in our fragmented society. Weaker state budget, discipline too little considered by our education system, sports players have constantly warned a few months before the Olympics of a necessary awareness of our leaders. Let us remember the pass of arms between Evan Fournier and Jean-Michel Blanquer, then Minister of Education and Sports.
Nevertheless, an element that is too often underestimated (because it is politically sensitive) is the importance of the population mix from which France has benefited over many decades. Each discipline has its own qualities and ideal profile. Basketball and running tend to favor athletic builds, badminton or ping pong the more lively athletes by nature, and swimming or wrestling the more solid builds. Contrary to popular belief, the fact that no, we are not all genetically and morphologically equal, and this is what also contributes to the beauty of sport, its ability to allow everyone to shine in certain disciplines rather than others, depending on its own qualities. Thus, in order to be able to produce performance in all areas, a country must have profiles that are as varied as possible.
The United States (and its 335 million inhabitants) understood this a long time ago, the ethnic diversity present in their favorite sports of basketball, baseball or ice hockey being the best example. , even if it must be admitted that France has neither the budget nor a sufficiently large population to question their leadership in the world of sport. And yet France seems to be the only nation capable of challenging the Americans in so many sports. Beyond its great athletic variety, France also benefits from a very wide range in geographical terms (mountains, seas and oceans).
The bet of 2024
Paris dreamed of hosting the Olympics in 2012, but ultimately it was Britain’s eternal rival who won the battle at the time. A decade later, the City of Light is finally preparing to receive them for the third time in its history, but paradoxically, France risks paying more homage to Pierre de Coubertin by simply participating, rather than trying to go always faster, higher, stronger in order to accumulate medals. After the failure of the Tokyo Olympics, it’s hard to believe the objective of 80 medals?
Let us be reassured, however, because the real challenge will not necessarily be to aim for the podium of Nations, and even less to compete with American or Chinese athletes to name a few, but to succeed in triggering a culture of sports practice among of the general public. France has recognized high-level athletes, but too many French people prefer to observe them rather than try to imitate them – all things considered, of course – and practice regular physical activity.
A recent OECD study sounds the alarm, Europeans are more sedentary than ever to the point that the number of cases of people suffering from diseases linked to insufficient physical activity is constantly increasing. France has also won the bronze medal for the annual amount of public health expenditure in 2022, i.e. a little over one billion euros, and the situation is obviously not going to improve on its own because nearly one out of two French people is overweight.
However, now is the time or never for the Ministries of Health and Sport to try to remedy this. As the Olympic Games tend to systematically motivate the French to enroll more in sports clubs, in particular those related to the disciplines where one shines, the fact of organizing them at home should give them a good additional excuse to cross the not, at least for the year 2024.