By Dr. Ashvin M Gutti, Program Mentor, MBAESG India
Passing through the Pyrenées and the Alps, and ending at the Champs-Élysées, Tour-de-France has become an annual cycling competition that has left a mark on the French culture, the same at the in-house Stade Roland-Garros, where France hosts the French Open, a major tennis tournament held in late May/early June of every year.
In a fast-moving sports society, France has made laws stricter and has banned smoking in cafés and other enclosed public places where family and kids enjoy the cheer and excitement of their nation’s winning streaks. In addition to these signs of an affinity for sports, smoking laws are becoming tougher extending to children’s schoolyards and places of public gathering. Gone are the days of a paunchy Frenchman in a Speedo wading in a lake with a cigarette dangling from his mouth, what role exactly do sports play in French life?
Appreciation for sports in the French culture is quite distinctively different from the way Americans perceive it. The American sporting culture and fitness craze thrives in almost all aspects of American societies, may it be in the fashion industry, educational institutions, the overhyped entertainment industry to television commercials. The final game of American Football or the Super Bowl commands such a large audience that getting an advertising spot at half-time is like striking gold, whereas the French culture is relaxed and laid-back with-its stress-free way of enjoying every part of the game with a bottle of wine and friends talking on various aspects of life, societies, family, any matter related to the country at large.
Vacation activities in the Alps and Pyrenées include skiing which is practiced by skilled professionals and by holidaymakers at large. Probably due to the influence of the calm Mediterranean climate, France has gravitated towards outdoor sports like tennis, sailing, cycling, skiing rather than investing heavily in the gym culture which is popular in the west. French Rugby is popular in the Southwest, where it rivals soccer as the favored sport.
Considered an exclusive sport in other countries, the famous Vendée Globe, is an around-the-world yacht competition that occurs once every four years, starting in the French Atlantic. Having a strong presence in the Olympic games and being popular across Europe, Basketball is a well-loved game, it is quite popular in city parks, such as the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris, where avid players regularly meet up to play.
The above examples define the true culture of France as a true sport-loving nation and have grown significantly in the past 2 to 3 decades from a novice to a challenger not only as a spectator but from a participant point of view.
Now as far as the question goes of whether or not the French are sporty? Some do fit the exported cinematic and literary image of cigarette-smoking Derrida-discussing café patrons; whilst others are outside sailing, cycling, skiing, and enjoying the many athletic activities that France has to offer.