The Cannes Film Festival, or the start of the local college. No need to choose on Monday, September 13 at the Elysée Palace, where the atmosphere was between these two chestnut trees. However, it was an unprecedented meeting that awaited the French athletes who won medals at the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo this summer, gathered at the Elysée Palace at the presidential invitation. Invited to an unprecedented ceremony, bringing together athletes and para-athletes for the first time, not all of them were able to come. But many were there for this parade of champions made in France with a well-established perspective: Paris 2024.
Under a sun and on a golden carpet, the French athletes began their slow procession in the middle of the afternoon. The calm of the Elysee courtyard was then broken only by a few crackling flashes, and the noise of pebbles crushed by all this Olympic metal. One of the first to enter the arena: Steven Da Costa, Olympic karate champion: “It’s my first time, I’m discovering, it’s not every day that we’re at the Élysée. I’m not stressed but I know this place a little less than the carpet (laughs)”, smiled the one who fights for his discipline to be on the program in 2024 in Paris, “But in the meantime, I savor “. A few meters behind him, another giant carpet made his entrance, all smiles: Teddy Riner, more used to the place.
“This is my fourth time, but it always feels good to come back to the Elysee. It is a source of pride for my mom.”
But the judoka with the 5 Olympic medals was also there to, like many, already plan on 2024: “Now is the time for the Paris Games. It must be the party, the party, the party, the sharing, the sharing, the sharing “. And what better symbol than this “meeting” of athletes from all walks of life: “It’s good to have brought together the athletes and para-athletes. Most of the time we are separated, but it’s good to have only one ceremony to be celebrated all at the same time “, savored Riner who, like everyone else, took the time to pose in front of the steps of the Palace.
A man who weighs 5 Olympic medals is in the place.
– Adrien Hémard (@AdrienHemard) September 13, 2021
The main courtyard of the Elysee then took on the air of an open-air interview room, which the Elysee press service was trying to organize so as not to make people unhappy. One of the most sought after: Rudy Gobert, silver with the Blues of basketball: “We had time to recharge our batteries after the Games. It’s a pleasure, an honor to finally be here. We’re going to represent the guys who can’t be here today “, appreciated the giant alongside Nicolas Batum. Before concluding : “The gold medal is now the goal, we will be ready “.
Olympic gold, Nikola Karabatic knows. Which did not prevent the handball player from savoring the moment: “We got a little used to coming to the Elysée, yes, but it’s always a pleasure. It allows us to relive a little the enchanted parenthesis of this summer”.
“I have also been to the Élysée, 4 years ago after Rio, but coming there a second time with gold is even more beautiful. I would never have believed it when I was little. ‘honor is a great distinction. As a dad I understood that it had some advantages (laughs). “
The purpose of the ceremony, it was indeed to give an additional medal to the tricolor champions of the summer: the legion of honor for the gold medals, the national order of the merit for the silvery and bronzed. To do this, you had to go to the Elysée village hall, open onto the gardens where the athletes’ relatives were waiting on the palace terrace. Meanwhile inside, the French delegation found itself in full force – or almost, some medalists having already resumed competition – in a back-to-school atmosphere. But barely enough time to take news and tell each other about the holidays that the staff of the Élysée made everyone sit down for the word of the “headmaster” Emmanuel Macron.
In front of the parterre of medalists, ministers, but also some political opponents (Valérie Pécresse, president of the Île-de-France region, and Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris), the President of the Republic launched into an exhaustive speech . On the program: a chronicle of the Games, some feedback on certain medals (those in judo, fencing, team sports, etc.), and above all a desire to look to Paris 2024, summarized as follows: “Take advantage of your medals, but not too much, because you have to prepare for 2024 “. The Head of State admitted in passing that the French balance sheet in Tokyo was below expectations, without however lowering the ambitions for in three years: “I believe that France can permanently integrate the top 5 in the medal ranking. We have to do a lot more, because these are our Games, at home, we are expected“.
Under the lights of the Republic’s splendor, the athletes listened wisely to the presidential speech. Then came the long-awaited moment – in every sense of the word -: the presentation of the decorations. To the Prime Minister, Jean Castex, and to the Minister of National Education, Youth and Sports, Jean-Michel Blanquer, the national order of merit to the silver and bronze medalists. To the President of the Republic the Legion of Honor, for a sequence without scratching the slightest name.
Nice ovation for Teddy Riner, now knight of the Legion of Honor. pic.twitter.com/vtwz7aJTIE
– Adrien Hémard (@AdrienHemard) September 13, 2021
And this is how suddenly “In the name of the Republic, I make you an officer of the Legion of Honor “ and applause, the ceremony ended with a light hubbub and an avalanche of selfies, before the group photo under the gold-colored chandeliers. Their new charm on the chest, the athletes headed for the terrace of the Elysee to savor this moment (and water it a little, anyway). But not too much, because Paris 2024 is in three years. Suffice to say tomorrow. After this detour via the Elysée, return to training.