Berliner Tageblatt - Paris: the canvas for sporting greatness

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Paris: the canvas for sporting greatness
Paris: the canvas for sporting greatness / Photo: © AFP

Paris: the canvas for sporting greatness

One of the great attractions of hosting the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics in Paris was the opportunity to show off the plethora of stunning buildings which will form the backdrop to many of the sports.

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A delight not just for the tourists -- more than 15 million are expected to arrive in the French capital during the Games -- but also for the local athletes who will be going for gold.

A number of those French athletes took a tour of Paris with a team of AFP photographers to lend a sporting angle to some of the city's most iconic locations.

French BMX rider Mathias Dandois found himself at the Musee d'Orsay which was built as a railway station and completed in 1900, in time for that year's World Fair which also included the second modern Olympics after Athens four years earlier.

It was transformed and opened as the Musee d’Orsay in 1986 and now hosts the largest collection of Impressionist paintings in the world.

"The last time I came to the Musee d’Orsay, it must have been on a school trip so it’s a little different today," says the nine-time BMX world champion.

“I love the collaboration between an athlete and a photographer because we have a pretty clear opinion on what we want the photo to look like," says Dandois.

"The photographer too. It’s so nice to find a point in the middle where we meet and take the best photo possible."

Another athlete who found himself in a museum was leading handball player Nikola Karabatic, the 40-year-old veteran who won gold in Beijing, London and Tokyo.

Karabatic was snapped in dreamy reverie at the Louvre, the former royal palace, in front of a painting which means so much to the French nation, Eugene Delacroix's "Liberty Leading the People" which commemorates the July Revolution of 1830.

The Louvre Pyramid, unveiled by then-President Francois Mitterrand in 1989 to commemorate the bicentenary of the French Revolution also made it into the shoot, showcasing the jumping talent of Arnaud Assoumani who won gold in the Long Jump F46 at the Beijing Paralympics in 2008.

For equestrian Penelope Leprevost, there is another royal palace, Versailles, where the show jumping will take place.

Leprevost, who won team gold in Rio in 2016, found her inspiration in the Hall of Mirrors, the piece de resistance of Louis XIV's famous palace.

Varian Pasquet, who is set to team up with Antoine Dupont, an iconic figure in his own right, in the rugby sevens stopped the traffic in Place Vendome, perhaps the most elegant square in the heart of Paris.

The Games start in Paris on July 26 with the opening ceremony along the Seine and run until August 11. The Paralympics take place from August 28 to September 8.

AFP clients can find all feature, magazine and photo essays by searching for "REPORTAGE".

J.Fankhauser--BTB