Warming Up for the 2024 Olympics at French Universities
In France, the term university athletics conjures up images of heavily medaled student athletes. Yet athletics are now part of schools’ overall development strategies. In light of Paris’ recent selection as the host city for the 2024 Olympics, EducPros decided to find out if French universities are really in shape.
From Olympic boxer Estelle Mossely to yacht racer François Gabart, French students are increasingly athletic. Yet if you look past the glow that these trophies cast on their alma maters, French universities aren't all on an equal playing field. According to the French university athletics directors organization, the GNDS, 420,000 French students engage in a regular physical activity at their schools. That's 26%, up from 19% ten years ago.
With the 2024 Olympics on the horizon, will French universities speed up their athletics programs? David Izidore, vice president of student life at Pierre and Marie Curie University (UPMC), notes, "Sociological studies have shown that international competitions have little impact on the public's athletic habits. No event can replace university policy." To that end, the French Conference of University Presidents (CPU) and the Ministry of Higher Education signed a charter in 2016 to promote university athletics.
This month, the CPU launched an evaluation of university athletic facilities. GNDS president Olivier Thenaisy says, "We suffer from a lack of facilities. Many are also run down." At the University of Bordeaux, facilities renovated since 2008 have seen a significant increase in student and staff use. Athletics director Charles Astier wants to raise student use from 27% to 40% through for-credit classes. In order to reach more students, the University of Southern Brittany now offers weight training, self-defense, tai chi, yoga and an annual event with endurance and flexibility tests.
Organizing sports events also affords students excellent educational opportunities. They are "confronted with budgeting, logistics and communications issues that they will encounter some day in their work," notes HEC sports director Patrick Patureau. Grenoble INP student life president Mireille Jacomino observes, "These interdisciplinary skills are precious. The students who run our adventure racing event welcome teams from all over France and demonstrate real professionalism. In addition, the event fosters values like perseverance and a sense of community."