Annecy Play Down Sarkozy Absence with Delight at PM Presence

July 1, 2011

Annecy’s underdog status in the race to host the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics has taken a substantial hit once again after it was announced that the French city will be the only one of the three bidders not to be represented here by its Head of State after President Nicolas Sarkozy resisted attempts for him to make the trip.

The struggling bids opposition from Munich will have German President Christian Wulff as part of its delegation at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session next Wednesday, July 6, while Pyeongchang will be boosted by the presence of South Korean leader Lee Myung-bak.

Annecy will instead be represented by France’s Prime Minister François Fillon and bid leader Charles Biegbeder insisted his delight at Fillon’s presence at the session, despite the apparent snub from Sarkozy. 

Sarkozy has so far ignored all efforts by France’s Sports Minister Chantal Jouanno to get him to change his mind and travel to support Annecy, which he claims to back, hailing the potential economic benefits of a successful bid.

Sarkozy may well be wary of suffering the embarrassment his predecessor as French President, Jacques Chirac, had done so after he travelled to Singapore for the IOC Session in 2005 to support Paris, which eventually saw the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics awarded to London.

The absence of Sarkozy will undoubtedly be a personal blow to Charles Beigbeder, the President of Annecy 2018, who had claimed in April at the SportAccord convention, saying: “I am sure he [Sarkozy] will be there but I cannot confirm it. He loves sport and he loves Olympism.”

Nevertheless, Beigbeder tried to put a positive spin on Fillon’s presence, stating in a press release yesterday, June 30: “It is fantastic news for Annecy 2018 that the Prime Minister of France, Francois Fillon, will lead with the Minister of Sports Chantal Jouanno the French delegation in Durban.

“Throughout this campaign we have had support from the President and the Prime Minister for our vision of authentic Games in the heart of the mountains, with the athletes for the future.

“We are proud that Francois Fillon, the head of our government, has had a close association with the bid during the campaign and met personally with the IOC Evaluation Commission in Annecy in February 2011.

“His presence in Durban shows how much Annecy 2018 means to our country and how strong our desire is to work in partnership with the IOC to use the global platform of the French Alps to benefit winter sports all over the globe.”

Fillion will join Jouanno, who led Paris’ successful bid for the 2018 Ryder Cup last month, is due to arrive here on Sunday (July 3), while Beigbeder, Annecy 2018 vice-president Jean-Pierre Vidal, Annecy Mayor Jean-Luc Rigaut and·Denis Masseglia, President of the French National Olympic and Sports Committee (CNOSF), are all due in tomorrow.