Paris 2024: before the Olympics, sport as a tool for social innovation



Suspended nearly 15m high, Ibrahim displays a bright smile. He didn’t hesitate for a second, tackled the climbing wall without trembling and, having reached the top of the wall, took advantage of the view without the slightest dizziness. The descent, well wedged in his harness, is obviously too fast, but he must leave room for his comrades.

They are six students from the Sylvain-Dauriac primary school in Bagatelle, a popular district of Toulouse, to do their range in the discipline, this Wednesday afternoon, at the Quéfets gymnasium in Tournefeuille, in the suburbs of the Pink City. But it is already a small revolution, possible thanks to Paris 2024.

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The project in which these kids are taking part is part of the “Impact 2024” program which, for the past two years, has been supporting initiatives carried out by multiple players, athletes and institutions. An endowment fund has been created for this purpose. In 2021, 4.9 million euros had been spent on 224 projects. They will be around 250 this year to share an envelope of 5.8 million euros.

“With our brand, we bring visibility to projects that must show how sport can change lives, underlines Damien Combredet-Blassel, Sport & Society Manager at Paris 2024. We also want them to help get the different players used to working together and that such good practices will take hold beyond the Games if possible. »

“Broadening Horizons”

Endowed with €42,000, the Occitanie league project of the French Mountain and Climbing Federation carries this ambition. “It starts from a desire to introduce young people from the neighborhoods to our discipline, far removed from their concerns, to broaden their horizons by taking them to the mountains”, exposes Anne Geernaert, the director of the regional FFME league.

Initially, the desire was to associate schools from two priority neighborhoods of city policy (QPV), Bagatelle in Toulouse and Laubadère in Tarbes (Hautes-Pyrénées), and to allow regular exchanges on sites offering the access to the many joys of the mountains (hiking, climbing, via ferrata, etc.).

But the realization testifies to the difficulties encountered in this kind of project. “We had misjudged the resistance to the health pass in the neighborhoods, and we were therefore unable to launch the operation in the fall of 2021 with middle school students, because they could not have access to the gymnasiums”, illustrates Anne Geernaert.

At the end of winter, after an initiation on a mobile climbing block at the college which had some success, more than a hundred students showed interest. But when planning a trip to Tournefeuille’s world-class climbing wall, “We fell during Ramadan and only two students showed up, also tells Ethel Barnabé, former CPE of the college and seasoned climber at the origin of the project. We therefore turned to the CM1-CM2 of the elementary school who took advantage of the windfall! “.

“Encouraging perseverance, the main challenge”

On the side of Tarbes, it is the inauguration deferred for six months of a new climbing wall which has also postponed the project. Its promoters are in the starting blocks to really bring it to life from the start of the next school year. “It’s a long job to hook young people, also convince parents to trust us, recalls Ethel Barnabé. On our territories, it takes a lot of energy to register an activity in the long term. Encouraging perseverance is our main challenge. »

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In Tarbes, Marlène Margui, relay of the project and member of the Roc & Pyrène club, wants to add another dimension to the affair: to convince, in addition to young people, certain mothers. “To form a group of women and ultimately succeed in a common challenge on an ascent in the summer of 2023, explains the host, who also works on city policy. There are many obstacles to overcome, in particular the cultural weight which does not facilitate access to sport for women in these neighborhoods, but I want to believe in it. And I hope to demonstrate with this pilot project that it is possible, and to inspire other clubs. » Experimenting and then expanding, such is the challenge for Paris 2024.

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Doing better around disability

With its Impact program, Paris 2024 also hopes to provoke a “interesting leverage effect”says its manager, Damien Combredet-Blassel: “When we invest €1, it enables us to raise €3 from other partners. » Since 2020, Paris 2024 has had 700,000 beneficiaries of its program. An effort to continue, and to accentuate for projects of access to sports practice for the disabled, “currently our area of ​​weakness”recognizes the delegate general. “Projects around disability require a lot of time, skills and specific equipment, which explains the difficulty in bringing them to light, tip Apolline Vedrenne, Paralympic referent in Occitania. But Paris 2024 should put a particular focus on disabled sport next year. »

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