This week's Unofficial Partner podcast guest is Lucien Boyer who we interviewed at the private members club, Home House. (Random side note: Home House is a bit upmarket. Sean signed his name in the book at reception and the name above his was Sir Ian McKellen).
Lucien is the Chairman and Co-Founder of the Global Sports Week, which launches in February 2020 in Paris. We talk about his time as global head of Havas Sport and Entertainment, the difference between the British and French sports markets and got in to the politics of the Olympic Games, comparing the role played by London 2012 to that expected of Paris 2024.
Global Sports Week is backed by President Macron, who is an Olympique Marseilles fan. We talked about whether this means fan in the true sense of the word, or if it's like David Cameron's 'love of Aston Villa', or was it West Ham: they both played in claret and blue, so it's confusing. For the record, I’m assured Macron is a proper OM fan.
The broader question is the value of sport, and specifically the Olympics, as a political asset. Between now and Paris 2024, Macron will fight a General Election (in 2022), in which Marie Le Pen and her far right nationalist mates will try to paint the president as the ‘prince of the middle classes’. It will be bloody, and likely fought on now-familiar issues: Them and us; young v old; stories filtered through the bubbles of privileged elites v the left behinds.
Since the Games’ commercial rebirth at LA in 1984, there’s been a duality to the Olympic brand, the resonance of which varies depending upon not just how old you are but how much money you have.
For some it symbolises the good stuff: harmony, civility, multiculturalism.
To others however, the ‘Olympic Family’ can look a lot like the marketing arm of a global economic system which has favoured educated, rich people and ruined the lives of the poor and disadvantaged for whom globalisation has meant the Uberisation of their jobs, fat-cat tax avoidance, zero-hour contracts and the loss of workplace rights.
Young v old, rich v poor: this is the fractured landscape facing the IOC and its commercial partners in every major market, making the job of selling the Olympics every bit as much about wealth and education as it is about age.
Put another way, for President Macron, how valuable is Paris 2024 in the fight that lies ahead?