Dreams, noble ideals and deep division

France, which for several centuries was Europe’s strongest nation, is today reduced to a supporting role in the global spectacle of the great nations. It is a worldview that harmonizes very poorly with President Emmanuel Macron and the identity and self-concept of most French people. The greatness of France belongs to the distant past, but every advocate of democracy and human rights should – even today – be deeply grateful to French philosophers such as Charles Louis Montesquieu (1689-1755) and Francois-Marie Arouet (1694-1778) – known under the pseudonym Voltaire. Montesquieu’s idea and principles about the distribution of power in three separate sectors – legislative, executive and judicial – became crucial for the development of modern, stable democracies – also in Denmark. Likewise, Voltaire’s fight for every citizen to have the right to speak his mind became central during the First French Republic in 1792. Thus, at the beginning of the 18th century, France was the greatest source of inspiration, both for the United States and many nations in Europe with new ideas about human rights, citizenship and popular sovereignty based on the revolutionary slogan: “Freedom, equality and brotherhood”.

French baron with dreams of noble competitions and peaceful coexistence

France as one of the world’s great nations and Paris as one of Europe’s metropolises were also the primary reason for the location of the 1900 Olympics, four years after the first modern games in Athens. The French baron Pierre de Coubertin (1863-1937), who was the initiator of the modern Olympic Games, was particularly concerned with the education of the male French youth, but also wanted to gather athletes from all over the world for “noble competition”. Coubertin was also very inspired by the great World Exhibitions at the end of the 18th century and with good relations with nobles, politicians and business owners in France, Paris became an obvious host city for the Games, both in 1900 and 1924. The 1900 Olympics in Paris, which was held at the same time as the World Exhibition, was not a success. The reason for the failure was poor organization of the competitions in the 19 sports. Coubertin was especially before World War I and in the interwar period the all-dominant figure in the Olympic Movement. The French baron therefore also succeeds in changing the host of the 1924 Olympics from Amsterdam to Paris. The baron simply insisted on giving Paris another chance to host a successful Olympics. This summer, Paris is once again the host city for the Olympics, just as the Paralympic Games are also a high priority for the French hosts. For the vast majority of French people, however, it is not international sporting events such as the Olympics and the Paralympics that have a lot of attention in everyday life. In addition, the nation’s political, economic, social and cultural situation is far too serious.

Macron: “President of the rich”, who lost the support of the French

Many French had hoped that the election of the only 39-year-old Emmanuel Macron as France’s youngest ever president in the spring of 2017 would isolate the extremes in French politics. The highly educated, likable rhetorician was elected on a social liberal program and as an ardent advocate of expanded European cooperation. Macron’s political vision was to rise above the outsiders and not least to revitalize French domestic politics and the European project. Macon succeeds in obtaining re-election as president in the spring of 2022 after another victory over Marine Le Pen from the right-wing nationalist party “Rassemblement National”, but more and more strikes, unrest and riots in the largest cities such as Paris, Marseille, Lyon and Toulouse, among others from the “Yellow Waistcoats”, was a direct attack on the political system in France and the president and his government in particular.

The populist nationalist party wants more France and less Europe

Over the past decade, the populist right-wing party with party leader Marine Le Pen has become increasingly popular with many French people, not least outside the largest cities. The party particularly emphasizes a very strict immigration policy, more law and order, more France and less European Union. The party’s progress was also confirmed in Sunday’s elections for the “Assemblée Nationale” parliament, where the party won 25% of the vote. The election, on the other hand, was a major defeat for Macron’s center coalition “Ensemble”, which received only 28% of the vote. The left-wing electoral alliance “Noveau Front Populaire” surprisingly won the election with 31% of the vote. The French parliament is now divided into three groups with very different political platforms and no tradition of working together. It will be more than difficult for Macron to establish a stable government, as there continues to be extreme polarization and political chaos in French politics.

The immigrant ghettos in the suburbs of Paris: France’s guilty conscience

France has historically been the oldest and biggest magnet for labor in Europe. After World War II, France drew heavily on labor from French-controlled Algeria and French-speaking countries in North Africa such as Tunisia and especially Morocco. INSEE estimates that today there are more than 7 million foreigners (10%) in France, half of whom are of African origin. At the same time, 40 percent of children aged 0-4 have an immigrant background. However, it is only less than one in three of foreigners who have obtained French citizenship. In addition, there is an unknown number of illegal immigrants who reside in France without a residence permit. The vast majority of immigrants in France have chosen to settle in the suburbs of the largest cities, where unemployment, violence, crime, religious and cultural clashes are everyday events. Out of the 20 municipalities in France with the highest poverty rate, 9 are located in the suburbs of Paris, where more than 10 million people live. The most controversial topics in French politics are about the number of foreigners, the right to obtain French citizenship and, not least, the coexistence between population groups with very different cultures, traditions, values ​​and social capital.

Risks of unrest during the 2024 Olympics and PL

It absolutely cannot be ruled out that internal tensions and conflicts in France break out during two of the world’s biggest sporting events – the 2024 Olympics and the 2024 Paralympics – in Paris. The French baron, who had dreams of peaceful coexistence between nations and “noble competition” between people, would undoubtedly be very saddened by the current political situation, both in his homeland France and in the world with Russia’s attack on Ukraine, fighting between Israel and the terrorist organizations Hamas and Lebanese Hezbollah and with more than 110 million people fleeing war and destruction worldwide. There is no indication that sport can solve the biggest national and international challenges of the 21st century.


Pierre de Coubertin: The Olympic idea. The international Journal of the History og Sport, Vol. 23, 2006, 483-527.

Institut National de la Statistique et des Ètudes Èconomiques – https://www.insee.fr/fr/accueil