IVth Games of the Francophonie in Beirut

(Press review – week from September 21 to 25, 2009)

Sunday the Sixth games of the Francophonie will be launched and will take place this year in Beirut from September 27 to October 6. The website of Games(http://jeux.francophonie.org/ ) announce the participation of more than 3,000 nationals of over 70 French-speaking countries. Established in 1987 and held every four years, the Games of the Francophonie combine in an original way sports competitions and cultural events with the French language in common.

The Euromed countries belonging to the Francophonie are: Belgium, Egypt, France, Greece, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Morocco, Mauritania, Monaco, Switzerland and Tunisia.

The absence of Algeria is remarkable. On his blogGilbert Grandguillaume, author of « Francophonie et Globalisation” explains this absence with the ambivalence that the French language representents in this country regarding identity, social, political and cultural aspects. In the ninth Summit of the Francophonie in Beirut in 2002, President Bouteflika, personally invited by the Lebanese President, delivered a speech on the opening of Algeria to the outside world, but this approach was not accompanied by accession of the country to the organization. The Algerian opinion seems not yet ready to accept it.

As detailed on the website, the objectives of the Games are multiple: « to contribute to promoting peace and development through meetings and exchanges between young Francophone ; to enable rapprochement of Francophone countries and constitute a factor boosting their youth to contribute to international solidarity in respect of gender equality, to raise awareness about the originality of the French speaking culture in all its diversity and develop artistic exchanges between francophone countries, to promote the emergence of francophone artistic talent on the international art scene, to help to prepare the French sport for participation in other major sports events; to contribute to promote the French language”.

The media coverage of the Games is on the other hand uneven among the participating countries. So if the Libanese l’Orient le Jour or the Moroccan Le Matin devoted several articles to the Games this week, the Belgian French speaking dailies La Libre Belgique andLe Soir, the French-Swiss dailies Le Temps and La Tribune de Genève and the French dailies Le MondeLe Figaro and Libération spoke little or not at all about it. Perhaps the European dailies will announce the event in their weekend editions, but we may nevertheless notice a low interest for the event.

The information website Swissinfo.ch analyses this lack of visibility of the Games of the Francophonie. It underlines the fact that « unlike the Commonwealth Games, their Anglo-Saxon equivalent, whose first edition appeared in 1930, the Games of the Francophonie have never managed to conquer the heart of the general public. Result: the leading athletes or performers often show little interest in participating”. The responsibility for this « anonymity » of the Games of the Francophonie is to attribute to the francophone countries and more specifically to their national sports federations and cultural committees. The news website notes that they use more games « to give young and little known athletes the opportunity to take their first steps at international level ». However this it is not all bad because according to Julien Fivaz, senior specialist in long jump, « the level is not so bad. It’s always interesting for the charts to win a medal in international competition. And then, the atmosphere is more relaxed than in other major events. It is also an opportunity to discover other cultures, particularly through the evenings and musical performances.  »

Despite a lack of visibility, the Games of the Francophonie is a valuable and colorful event which deserves to be promoted.