Randomness of the calendar. But a chance that does not deceive. Less than 500 days before the Paris 2024 Games (D – 438 this Monday, May 15), the French sports movement is looking abroad. It opens to the international. With, at the head of the procession, the president of the National Olympic Committee (CNOSF), Brigitte Henriques (photo above).
At the end of last month, she made the long trip to Queensland to sign a partnership agreement with the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC). Last week, she opened the annual seminar of the Association of European Olympic Committees (EOC), held for the first time in Paris, with a welcome speech.
Brigitte Henriques answered the questions of FrancsJeux.
FrancsJeux: What is the strategy behind the signing last month of a partnership agreement with the Australian Olympic Committee?
Brigitte Henriques: The CNOSF’s international outreach is part of our global program, which has been in place since my election as President in June 2021. It is one of the six pillars. We want to play a major role internationally, to be present, to have an impact and to be consistent. Eight years after Paris, Brisbane will organize the Summer Games in 2032. The agreement signed last month is part of a common Olympic approach: the preparation of the event, its organization, the legacy, but also the importance of obtaining the best possible sporting results. Our partnership also includes a training component. And of course it includes the requirements of sustainable development. With my Australian colleagues, I mentioned all the work undertaken to make the Seine clean again for swimming. In Brisbane, they have the same ambition for the river that runs through the city.
Will this partnership agreement be followed by others?
We have already signed agreements with Canada, Italy and the Balkans. The next two will be signed with Germany and Denmark.
Before Brisbane, the Summer Games will stop in Los Angeles in 2028. Are you going to team up with the American Olympic and Paralympic Committee, the USOPC, as you have just done with the AOC for Australia?
We are in discussions with the USOPC. Things are underway. With, on both sides, a real will to succeed.
Last weekend, Paris hosted the annual seminar of the Association of European Olympic Committees (EOC). What message did you send to your continental counterparts?
This seminar was the first one organized in Paris, the first one in history hosted by the CNOSF. I opened the meeting by expressing to my colleagues from the European Olympic Committees my pride in receiving them and the honor for France to hold this meeting. With less than 500 days to go before the Paris 2024 Games, it was also an ideal opportunity to showcase our ambition to play a major role at the international level. I have just been appointed to ANOC’s Events Commission, after being chosen by the IOC to sit on its Commission for Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. But I am not the only one. The French Olympic movement has many leaders who want to join international bodies.
The EOC is behind the creation of the European Games, the third edition of which will be held in June in Poland. Is it an event that you are watching very closely?
Of course I am. I watch it and support it. The European Games are often a step for athletes, but also for certain sports or disciplines, on the road to the Olympic Games. We have released a budget to set up a Club France this year in Poland, where we will receive our colleagues from the national Olympic committees and international federations.
Could France be a candidate to organize them?
As you know, some French regions are interested in hosting the Winter Games. But we have not yet determined a date. For the European Games, the EOC knows that we would have the capacity. We have not been formally asked to apply, but nothing is excluded.
Would you say that France is now more influential than ever in the international sports movement?
At the halfway point, I would say that the objective set in terms of international strategy has already been almost reached. We are definitely changing dimension. We are beginning to have a very strong influence. The creation in 2021 of the French Touch Sport is another illustration. Many things are moving forward. The election of Martin Fourcade to the IOC Athletes’ Commission in February 2022 is another example. He is determined to become a real player.
What role does the CNOSF play in this international influence?
The role of leader. We support the ambitions of French leaders who have international ambitions, with a two-year program. We have created, with the government, the circle of High Potential Internationals (HPI). Over the next two years, we will sign new agreements with foreign National Olympic Committees. And we have planned a space dedicated to the EOC at the Club France, at La Villette, during the Paris 2024 Games.
During your recent trip to Oceania, you also made stops in New Caledonia and Tahiti. With what objectives?
The first was to see if Tahiti and New Caledonia could serve as back-up bases for France, but also for other countries, for the Olympic Games after Paris 2024. Tahiti could be for Los Angeles 2028 and Brisbane 2032, New Caledonia for Brisbane 2032. In Tahiti, I met the actors of the surfing site of the Paris 2024 Games, exchanged with them on their totally sustainable approach, without new constructions, even for the housing of the teams. French Polynesia will organize the Pacific Games in 2027, for which we will strengthen the collaboration between the CNOSF and the Olympic Committee of French Polynesia. We are going to create next year, in the CNOSF, a commission of the ultra-marine territories, the first of its kind. It will be launched during the Paris 2024 Games. Finally, I took advantage of my meeting with Robin Mitchell, the President of ANOC, to officially ask him that Polynesia, New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna be fully integrated into the Association of Oceanian National Olympic Committees (ONOC). The process has been launched. We will have an answer next year.