— Published 19 May 2023

“Leaving a legacy in the collective imagination”

There is no doubt about it: for the Paris 2024 Games, fencing has hit the jackpot. The OCOG has awarded it one of the most iconic sites of the event, the Grand Palais. In the heart of the capital. A stone’s throw from the quays of the Seine and the Champs-Elysées.

With such a setting, and the prospect of full stands from the first to the last day (fencing is one of the “sold out” sports for the second phase of ticket sales), the discipline is expecting a lot from the Olympic and Paralympic event.

Philippe Fadeau (photo above), who is in charge of the fencing and wheelchair fencing competitions for the organising committee, answered questions from FrancsJeux. He continues the series of interviews with the sports managers of the Paris 2024 OCOG.

FrancsJeux: What was your life like before the Paris 2024 OCOG?

Philippe Fadeau: I spent more than fifteen years at the French Fencing Federation (FFE), where I was responsible for events and communication. More than fifteen very good years, including responsibility for organising the two World Cup events held in France every year. I also took part in the organisation of the World Championships in 2010 in Paris, at the Grand Palais. Before that, I practised fencing, but at a modest level.

What is your past experience of the Olympic Games?

I attended the London Games in 2012 as a spectator. But I was lucky enough to get a behind-the-scenes look at the fencing competition through my contacts with the fencing manager. My other, more professional Olympic experience was at the Tokyo 2020 Games. I took part in the observer programme, which allowed me to be completely immersed in the fencing event organisation team, accompanying the sport manager on a daily basis. It was a very enriching experience, which I still use on a daily basis. I was impressed by the level of detail and service. The organisation is very fine, incomparable with any other event.

Do you have any special memories of the Games?

I have two memories. The first is from the 1988 Seoul Games. They were organised in September/October. I followed some of the events on television before going to school. I was very impressed by Jean-François Lamour’s victory in the individual sabre. A Frenchman on the podium, the Marseillaise, in a country so far from France… The image was very powerful. My history with fencing began there. Much more recently, the Tokyo 2020 Games. I was able to rub shoulders on the competition field with the French fencers that I regularly met at the Federation. I shared their joys and their disappointments. Romain Cannone’s victory in the individual epee was a great moment. It was his day.

What is the top file on your desk ?

Preparing for the operational test of fencing planned for this summer at the Games’ venue, the Grand Palais. We will have a competition simulation, but it will be primarily a technical test, to test the competition field, the flows, the results system, etc. The Grand Palais will still be under construction, so we will have to adapt. These conditions will be restrictive, but they also promise to be very interesting. This operational test, organised during the Games, will be an opportunity to put in place the innovative system designed to cover the glass roof of the Grand Palais. It will avoid the risk of shadows on the stage and the dazzling of the fencers. We have no doubts about the process, but the test will allow it to be installed and adapted to the Grand Palais.

The fencing and wheelchair fencing venue: what are its assets and the challenge in view of the Games? 

The Grand Palais, in the heart of Paris. A historic venue, one of the most beautiful sites of the Games. For fencing, having it available for the Olympic and Paralympic events is an incredible opportunity. But this choice is also a form of recognition of what the discipline has contributed to France’s Olympic history. The Grand Palais has already been used for the World Fencing Championships in 2010, but the space available was very different. Next year we will have a brand new Grand Palais. The challenge is immense, because the site is not at all designed to host Olympic and Paralympic competitions. It is on several levels, a constraint that must be taken into account for wheelchair athletes. We are going to have to adapt, respect the site, find innovative solutions, but still meet the requirements of a high-level competition.

Paris 2024 will be a success for fencing if…

The priority is the athletes. The Paris 2024 Games will be a success for fencing if we have succeeded in placing them in the best conditions to perform. Personally, they will be a success if, in 20 or 30 years’ time, fencing in the Grand Palais will be among the images and moments that will have marked the Paris 2024 Games. I would like the discipline to contribute its share of heritage to the collective imagination.