public at appointments, deficit of tricolor medals, acculturation to parasport… A contrasting balance one year before the Games

After hosting performances by the greatest athletes for 10 days, the Athletics World Championships closed on Monday evening at the Charléty stadium in Paris.

It was a bittersweet ending that accompanied the last day of the Paralympic Athletics World Championships on Monday 17 July. Sweet, because for 10 days (from 8 to 17 July), the atmosphere around the blue Charléty slope did not fade. In the stands there were daily scenes of exchanges between parasport connoisseurs and absolute novices, while everyone vibrated in unison behind the athletes’ performances and the succession of world records (35 in total!). Bitter also because the vast majority of the public had come to celebrate the tricolor medals, which turned out to be rare. Not necessarily reassuring in view of next year’s home Paralympics (from 28 August to 8 September 2024), but not even a guarantee of certain failure in just over 13 months.

These shared sentiments therefore foreshadow a mixed balance when it comes to reckoning. Even if, on many points, the meeting kept its promises.

Ticket office: 100,000 spectators in 10 days of competition, a record

For the first time in France, during these para-athletics world championships, a paid ticket office was set up for a sporting event for the disabled. The challenge ? Recognize the performance of athletes with disabilities at their fair value with a deed of purchase, in the same manner as for able-bodied.

“It was an unprecedented successsums up Guy Tisserant, treasurer of the French Handisport Federation (FFH) and vice-president of the World Cup. We issued 125,000 tickets, including those purchased and others offered to partners and guests, in the 10 days. Above all, 100,000 people arrived at the Charléty stadium, an average of 10,000 a day.

This 2023 edition of the second most publicized meeting in the world of parasport after the Paralympic Games even broke the attendance record, held by London in 2017. Enough to make your chest puff before Paris 2024. “For the champions who have shined on the track it has been incredible because they are used to performing in quite reserved environments.explains Guislaine Westelynck, president of the FFH. Seeing these thousands of people there for them, meeting a lot of them, made them really happy.”

Spectators present in the stands of the Charléty stadium for the evening session of the Paralympic Athletics World Championships, on Friday 14 July 2023. (PICOUT GREGORY)

Organization: almost flawless logistics

Loudspeakers, giant screens, pre-race entertainment, infrastructure decorated in the colors of the world championships… Nothing has been left to chance by the “Paris 23” Organizing Committee to make its event a highlight. The launch concerts of the evening sessions, with prominent personalities such as Yannick Noah or Amel Bent, made it possible to participate in the atmosphere in the stands.

Parasport awareness workshops (bocce, football for the blind, wheelchair basketball, etc.), scattered in the corridors of the enclosure, have also found their audience. “We had between 1,500 and 2,000 people on the same day who came to discover certain disciplinesexplains Guy Tisserant. It is this aspect of sharing that has been acclaimed by the people, and which has then been transcribed in the stands”.

The 1,500 volunteers (out of 2,500 candidates) present in these 10 days have also been essential links for the smooth running of these World Cups. Many of them let their desire to get involved as soon as possible in a new disabled sporting event seep through very soon.

Small flat however, raised by some athletes: transport problems between the training grounds, especially the Pershing stadium located next to the Insep, in the Bois de Vincennes, and the place of the race. Logistics to be reviewed for next summer’s Games, even if this time Charléty will not host the athletics competitions, which will be transferred to the Stade de France.

France: “We were world champions in 5th place”

“In terms of sporting success, I expected much better.” It didn’t take long for Guy Ontanon, the new performance manager of the Handisport Federation, to express his frustration at the closure of these World Cups at the end of the afternoon on Monday. The four bronze medals (Valentin Bertrand and Manon Genest in the long jump T37, Timothée Adolphe in the 400 meters T11 and 100 meters T11) are not enough to reach the bar of six or seven medals expected by the French clan.

However, not everything is to be thrown away, relativizes the former Paralympic swimmer Sami El-Gueddari, head of the FFH sports membership course: “It was a lot It has been a long time since this team was not so young. There were 14 newcomers, many of whom hit the track for the first time in a major championship like this. Added to this is the last minute package by Dimitri Pavadé (long jump T64), one of our leaders. Paris 2024 will be a new stage, we will have to do it with podiums”.

Handisport Federation performance manager Guy Ontanon and French team leader Olivier Deniaud congratulate Valentin Bertrand after his bronze medal in the T37 long jump at the World Athletics Championships, July 15, 2023 (FLORENT-PERVILLE)

With 11 fifth places collected during the competition, the Azzurri have been able to dose what they lack to transform the race with medals, even on an emotional level. “On this point we will have to do in-depth work: some athletes have been taken by emotionconfesses Guy Ontanon. They were amazed by the enthusiasm around them and let themselves be overwhelmed by the media and the public. We don’t want that to happen next year, there will be another roadmap.”

Olivier Deniaud, the French team’s foreman, has an idea of ​​the formula: “I give you an appointment in 2024. We are engaged in an 800 meters. For the moment, we are behind on the first 400 meters. But I guarantee you that the second lap will be terrible”.

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