France should aim for 'double' Olympic medals at 2024

Laura Flessel has said that France should aim to win double the number of medals at the Paris Olympics 2024

The French minister for sport has said that France should aim to win double the number of medals at the Paris Olympics 2024, as it did at the Rio Olympics 2016.

Laura Flessel has said that France needs to be ambitious, and that doubling the number of medals was entirely possible, reports French newspaper Le Monde.

France’s gold medal record, since World War Two, was achieved in Atlanta in 1996, when France won 15 golds; but in 2016, France picked up 42 medals overall, its third-best performance after the 1900 Paris Games and those in 2008 in Beijing, at which it won 43.

Yet, by way of comparison, this puts France some way behind the 2016 leader-board winner the United States, which picked up 121 and second-placed Great Britain, which won 67 - more than double the 30 medals won by GB in 2004.

France’s 42 overall and 10 golds put it in seventh place, also behind China, Russia, Germany and Japan.

Flessel’s ambitious target has been criticised by some, who say that imposing such a high bar on France at a time of constrained sports budgets is foolhardy.

Denis Masseglia, president of the National French Olympic Sport Committee (Comité national olympique sportif français (CNOSF)), has said that the government’s involvement and power when it comes to Olympic dealings should not stand, and that in other countries, objectives and goals are made by the national Olympic Committee, not politicians.

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“We are light-years away from that with this current system,” he said, speaking to Le Monde. “Right now we have a top-down system, where the State has the decision-making power and others are merely executors.”

And yet, Flessel has said that “we need to do better with less”, and has appeared to dismiss the fact the sports budget for 2018 will drop by 7% compared to 2017. She highlighted her ministry’s plans to offer €10 million to high-level sport, and said that changing the budget was less important than “changing the French sporting model”.

Today Claude Onesta, former Olympic handball coach and now the lead in charge of high-level performance for Team France, referred to the success of Team GB in 2016 as a goal at which France should aim. “The British example shows very clearly that one can produce exceptional results while being completely disconnected from sport for the masses.”

This approach has been criticised by Béatrice Barbusse, president of the National Centre for Sport Development (Centre national pour le développement du sport), who said that using the British model would “very clearly mark the introduction of a private and entrepreneurial governing of sport”.

Similarly, some have called into question the meaning to chasing medal numbers at all costs.

Some have suggested that the Olympics in Paris should be more focused on encouraging the populace to take part in better sport, and not simply on medals.

Indeed, figures suggest that one year after Team GB’s strong medal numbers at London 2012, the actual practice of sport across the country by normal people had actually decreased.

Flessel is not the first French minister to take a strong approach to France’s sporting performance; President Charles de Gaulle was said to have realised the power of newly-globally-televised sporting events to transmit glory or failure after the 1960 Olympics when France failed to achieved a single medal.

After this, the country saw significant development in its sporting facilities, including swimming pools, gyms, and other infrastructure.

At the time, former mountain climber and then-secretary of state for youth and sports, said his aim was to “produce high-level [competitors] by developing sport for the masses”.

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