Games of La Francophonie: Celebrating Francophone youth

While they are unique for showcasing the arts as well as sports, the Games of La Francophonie (French only) are part of the more authentic tradition of the Ancient Olympic Games. Combining sporting and cultural competitions, they promote above all solidarity among French-speaking countries. Canada, which has been a key part of this international event since its beginnings, once again made a good showing at the VII Games of La Francophonie, which took place from September 7 to 15, 2013, in Nice, France.

It was at the second Francophonie Summit, hosted by Canada in Québec City in 1987, that the leaders of the member nations and governments of the International Organisation of La Francophonie decided to organize games to be held every four years, in the year after the summer Olympics. Focusing on friendship and solidarity, these Games would enable young Francophones and Francophiles, in all their diversity, to demonstrate their talents, creativity and love of the French language. This year, in Nice, over 3,000 young athletes and artists from more than 75 states and governments took part in the event.

Three Canadian delegations

Les porte-drapeaux de l’Équipe Canada, de l’Équipe Canada-Nouveau-Brunswick et de l’Équipe Canada-Québec.
Photo credit: Canadian Heritage

Canada has participated in every Games of La Francophonie since the very first Games in 1989, which comes as no surprise considering the bilingual nature of our country. As Quebec and New Brunswick are the only two Canadian provinces in which French is an official language, and as they are individual members of the International Organisation of La Francophonie, the Canadian delegation is represented by three separate teams united by a spirit of cooperation: Team Canada, Team Canada-Quebec (French only) and Team Canada-New Brunswick. In total, this year’s Canadian delegation included nearly 250 athletes and artists who competed in eight sporting disciplines and nine cultural competitions. The Games provide an excellent outlet for Canadian athletes and artists to proudly compete on a global playing field in one of Canada’s official languages.

“Each team in the delegation registers independently,” says Jérôme Moisan, associate head of the Canadian delegation, “but we work together to avoid unnecessarily duplicating certain responsibilities and to make stronger teams, such as in soccer and basketball. Our uniforms are the same design but in different colours. And, together, we have a stronger presence at the Games!” For young Canadians, the Games are a unique opportunity not only to discover the world through the relationships they build with athletes and artists from all different backgrounds, but also to showcase French-Canadian culture.

Art: A universal language

Guillaume Corbeil, gagnant de la médaille d’or pour sa nouvelle littéraire.
Photo credit: Canadian Heritage

What distinguishes the Games of La Francophonie from other major sporting events is the presence of an artistic component. As one of the pillars of Francophone civilization, the arts express cultural diversity and play a unifying role, building friendships and promoting teamwork. In addition to competitions, creative workshops are also organized. “I met a Belgian author and a Lebanese author,” says Guillaume Corbeil, winner of the gold medal in the Literature category. “We clicked immediately because we spoke French. But we come from very different backgrounds! I was surprised at how much we had in common.”

In addition to being a major celebration of Francophone diversity, the Games broaden horizons and create unique opportunities for participating artists. “The Games are a valuable forum for artists,” says Moisan. “They also provide international exposure and networking possibilities. The opportunities vary from one discipline to the next, but the medalists usually receive invitations to festivals, for example. This is already the case with Stéphane Guertin and Guillaume Corbeil, our two gold medalists.” Another example: Quebec rockers Karkwa wrote their song Les enfants de Beyrouth for the 2009 Games in Lebanon, and won the bronze medal, which was a defining experience for them.

“I don’t know what the future has in store for me as a result of this experience,” says Corbeil, “but an anthology is already being planned with the other authors who participated in the Games, and a representative of the Canadian government has contacted me. For someone who’s used to working alone in relative obscurity, it’s pretty exciting!”

Canadian artists from all three teams won a total of six medals in Nice.

Canadian athletes make a good showing

On the sporting side of things, our athletes also did well. Team Canada ranked 2nd in the medal count, Team Canada-Quebec came 15th, and Team Canada-New Brunswick was 23rd. Canada won a total of 56 medals, including 14 gold medals.

“The Games of La Francophonie are a development opportunity for young athletes. For a number of them, this is their first international medal!” says Moisan. “The atmosphere is a bit more casual than at the Olympics, but it’s still a life-changing experience and a chance for them to compete with the best.”

The VIII Games of La Francophonie will be held in 2017 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire.

Published on Thursday, November 28, 2013

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