As the Paris Olympics Promise New Ambition, Old Anxieties Intensify
French politicians are struggling to explain why the legacy of President Nicholas Sarkozy should be preserved and the Olympics restored instead of being relegated to history.
By JOSEPH FITSSE
PARIS, JULY 27, 2012 (BUSINESS WIRE)—It comes wrapped up in a box and looks like the kind of gift your uncle would like. So when the boxes of the first batch of French Olympic medals are delivered to the National Assembly last week, and then more boxes and medals from the second and third shipments, the gift will not be the sort of thing that a political leader likes.
The Olympians, as the Olympians are apt to do, have been making the rounds, from the National Assembly and the Elysée Palace to Parisian restaurants and bars. Each of the 6,500 medals and other valuables sent by the French government to the Paris Games represents a moment of history. The moment when France’s first Olympic Games, in 1894, were celebrated, when France had its moment of glory, when the French people took pride in their country and its people.
Even the smallest gifts will be a gift to history – to history made possible by France’s people.
So when it is the turn of the French Olympic Committee to receive the gift, it’s not as much about the medal for the president of the French Olympic Committee that they are delivering. Nor is it really about the gift in and of itself.
It’s about something more. It’s about the nation’s confidence, its pride, its expectations, its aspirations, its legacy. And because there are, as France has shown again and again, many, many challenges ahead, and because there are many, many uncertainties – for example, over the government’s ability to pay a promised $5 billion (€4.2 billion) for the Olympics – there is much to be discussed in the days and weeks after the Olympic medal boxes first arrive.
The medals are not the problem. The government’s inability to pay for the Games is the problem. That is the problem that is weighing on