Olympic haul leads to funding debate
France reaches target of 40 medals but drops three places in the table of nations.
While France’s Olympic haul of 40 medals means Health Minister Roselyn Bachelot will attend an EU leaders meeting wearing pink crocs, it has also provoked a debate over sports funding.
Ms Bachelot promised before the Games that she would sport the colourful footwear if France could reach its target of 40 medals.
The result beats the country’s record of 38 in the Sydney Games but was low in gold medals and masks the fact that in terms of global rank its position France dropped from 7th to 10th.
In total France’s athletes won seven golds, 16 silvers and 17 bronze.
Three unexpected successes helped the Olympic team’s performance. In gymnastics, Benoît Caranobe took bronze, in judo Benjamin Darbelet won a silver in the 66kg category and Mahiedine Mekhissi-Benabbad won silver in the men’s 3000m steeplechase.
Other notable performances include swimmer Alain Bernard who picked up a gold in the 100m freestyle, silver in the 4x100m freestyle relay and bronze in the 50m freestyle.
Anne-Caroline Chausson won the first gold in the BMX competition which made its debut at this year’s Games; fellow team mate Laetitia Le Corguillé picked up silver.
Having won gold in the men’s mountain biking at Athens in 2004, Julien Absalon repeated the victory in Beijing while Jean-Christophe Péraud took silver.
Sports trainers and ministers have been quick to promise better performances at the next Games in London in 2012. Focus has been on France’s performance in athletic events where it finished 28th in the medal tables.
The President of the French Olympic Committee Henri Sérandour said a big clean-out was needed.
Sports minister Bernard Laporte said he would help athletics dominate at the next Games.
He said France would need to focus resources on a smaller section of top performers and added that team lists were too large at the moment.
Other sports chiefs have said France could reform its sport funding using private partnerships such as in the UK.