Football shares limelight with social projects in France's Olympic wonderland

REUTERS - Stephanie Lecocq

This week's draw for the Olympic football tournament came amid a flurry of events aimed at highlighting the much-vaunted "legacy" component of the Paris 2024 Games.

Trust Arsène Wenger to inject an ethereal element into a live TV draw ceremony for a football tournament.

Urged to expand into the exuberance before the teams discovered their adversaries at the Paris Olympics, the former Arsenal boss maintained the detached demeanour that earned him the nickname The Professor during his time in north London.

Fabien Lévêque, the master of ceremonies, asked the 74-year-old if he had any words of wisdom for Thierry Henry and Hervé Renard as they awaited the names for the French men's and women's teams respectively.

Surveying the throng of administrators, former players and rent-a-glitterati, Wenger said: “Thierry and Hervé will have lots of support from me … but also my compassion.”

Ha, ha, Harsene. Honestly, who asked this one along?

Openers against US, Colombia

But the boy Lévêque was doing well. He quickly brought in Tony Estanguet, the boss of the Paris 2024 Olympics organising committee, to refire the vibrancy.

And the three-time gold medallist in canoeing duly stoked the audience with the requisite rousing rhetoric.

“I’m happy to see everyone,” Estanguet enthused. “Football is an important Olympic event. There are going to be 58 matches at seven stadiums around France.”

On Monday, three government ministers will wander around wastelands 20-odd kilometres to the north of central Paris to coo at the slick transformation into lavish sports facilities and landscaped apartment blocks.

Read more on RFI English

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