President: what if we finally started talking about sports?


DIn two years, Paris and France will host the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The deadline, so close, never seemed so far away. Worried, however, especially by the dramatic news, the candidates for President of the Republic did not take advantage of this unique reaction to finally put the sport in the place it deserves. On 17 March, during a ceremonial speech organized by CNOSF, only three candidates answered (Anne Hidalgo, Yannick Jadot and Fabien Roussel). Rarely are televised debates or meetings raised about the necessary reform of sports policy.

In most cases, indirect satisfaction is to congratulate yourself on the number of medals won at a very high level, and, more broadly, to rejoice in the influence of France at the international level. However, a nation’s place on the medal table in no way predicts its strong athletic health. Tricolor biathlon, for example, which alone gave our country half of the podiums at the recent Winter Olympics, really only concerns a handful of practitioners. The taste for effort arises from the emotions evoked by the sport being watched. Its disclosure suffers from the proliferation of encrypted distribution channels and the skyrocketing retransmission rights.

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With the exception of a 2004 decree guaranteeing an unencrypted window to about twenty major events, the vast majority of sporting events are broadcast on pay-TV channels. The massive increase in subscription costs is causing more and more disciplines to become invisible and thus shrinking the base of the pyramid, an important reservoir for identifying top athletes. To make matters worse, last weekend the World Indoor Championships in Athletics failed to find a buyer, forcing the FFA to negotiate broadcast rights on its own to settle for a confidential exhibition on its own digital channel. As a result, the three world records broken or equaled at these championships went almost unnoticed. However, until recently, athletics was considered the number one Olympic sport. So how can we hope to motivate a population that is increasingly sedentary and addicted to screens?

To capture the attention of the youngest, innovative sports policy would do well to draw inspiration from “gamification”.

The signals regarding the athletic practice of the youngest are particularly troubling. According to data published by the OECD, in 2016 only 14% of boys and 6% of girls in France were physically active on a daily basis, which moves our country to the penultimate place in the EU. Six years later, this sad observation is probably still relevant. There are more than 12 million in France, born between 1997 and 2010. These babies were bottle-fed with smartphones and social media. There are fewer and fewer of them to be seduced by traditional ways of consumption, by sports seen on TV or played in clubs run by federations. The new generation spends three hours a day on social media and their average attention span is only eight seconds. Its playground is mostly digital.

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To capture the attention of the youngest, innovative sports policy would do well to draw inspiration from “gamification”, in other words, integrate the codes that operate in eSports and video games. And the most brutal is yet to come with the planned increase in the power of the metaverses, virtual universes in which each of us will be encouraged to consume and exercise through our avatar. Faced with this global revolution, the psychological and behavioral impact of which no one can yet assess, it seems urgent to put the club, a factor of social connection, at the center of priorities again. In the very short term, it should become a digital sports community capable of offering an expanded offering better suited to new expectations. Productivity and commitment to results are increasingly relegated to the background. The current trend is to sweat with friends, take care of your body in harmony with nature, take advantage of urban space redesigned for effort, and this at any time of the day.

Savings from more sustainable physical activity will amount to 840 euros per year for a person aged 20 to 39.

The “30 minutes of daily physical activity” operation recently launched in primary schools will only be effective if, at the same time, emphasis is placed on a coordinated policy between the school and athletes such as our Swedish or Danish neighbours. Only at this price will we be able to increase the number of practitioners and thus be able to combat the isolation and deterioration in health caused by sedentary lifestyles and screen addiction. In 40 years, French students have lost 25% of their cardiopulmonary abilities. Young people run slower and shorter. As a result, almost one in two adults is subsequently overweight or even obese. In addition to everyday personal suffering, this underlying trend has very significant economic costs.

According to a study commissioned by the Ministry of Ecological Transition, the cost of inaction in France could be estimated at 140 billion euros a year. The savings from more sustainable physical activity will be €840 per year for a person aged 20 to 39 and €23,275 for a person in the age group 40 to 74. Numbers that are dizzying and should challenge presidential candidates. Most smartphones have an app that measures the number of steps taken in a day. The proximity of the Olympic Games to Paris could provide an opportunity to launch a major national promotion, rewarding those in companies, schools or sports clubs with the most steps in a given period of time. After all, each of us dreams of one day winning the most beautiful gold medal, the one that celebrates sustained and moderate effort and that, in the end, awards our country with a real label of national sportswear. The first step… I would very much like our future president to advocate for this first step.