Passionate, uninterested or good communicators … The relations of the presidents of the Fifth Republic with sport

Emmanuel Macron argues, Thursday, October 14, a charity football match with the Variété Club de France in front of a team of caregivers from the Poissy Saint-Germain-en-Laye intercommunal hospital center. The opportunity for the President of the Republic to practice one of his passions while taking care of his communication. His predecessors at the Elysee, more or less sports enthusiasts, have not all adopted the same strategy.

Charles De Gaulle and Georges Pompidou: a lack of appetite for sport

Apart from military gymnastics, horse riding and fencing, to which he submitted during his studies at Saint-Cyr, Charles De Gaulle never really appreciated the practice of sport. During his tenure, he did not take an interest in sport until after the debacle of the French at the Olympic Games in Rome in 1960 (no gold medal) and then supported the policy of Maurice Herzog in favor the installation of sports halls and fields in schools, in order to repair the affront. His successor at the Élysée, Georges Pompidou, had meanwhile played rugby and tennis in his youth, and had to abandon his passion for motor racing on the advice of his security service. We keep more of him an image of an intellectual president rather than a sportsman.

Valéry Giscard d’Estaing and Jacques Chirac: communication above all else

Valéry Giscard d’Estaing is more athletic than his predecessors and wants to know it. He practices tennis and skiing, and invites the cameras to follow him. In 1975, around sixty journalists were in Courchevel for their mountain holidays. A few years earlier, to give itself a more popular image, “VGE” had already played football in front of the media.

Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, here in Courchevel in 1976, was a ski enthusiast.  (/ AFP)

At the head of the State from 1995 to 2007, Jacques Chirac was not a great sportsman and did not have a great culture of sport, but he took a liking to this type of event and to meetings with athletes. In 1995, when he received the French handball team, world champion, at the Elysée, he asked to Jackson Richardson if he speaks English. Three years later, on July 12, 1998, he chants, without knowing them, the names of the Blues of football, just before the final of the World Cup. Later, he also developed a passion for sumo and even gave his name to a trophy awarded to the best sumotoris. In her book, his wife Bernadette Chirac still described the former president as “real sportsman in a wheelchair”.

François Mitterrand and François Hollande: discreet sportsmen

Passionate about cycling, François Mitterrand was a fan of the Tour de France, where he even attended a stage “by surprise”, on the side of the road, among the other spectators, in 1985. The socialist president also played golf and golf. tennis, two sports with a bourgeois image, of which he did not boast. More recently, at the head of state, François Hollande was passionate about football and a supporter of FC Rouen in his childhood. But, unlike Valéry Giscard d’Estaing or Nicolas Sarkozy before him, he avoided showing himself in public in sportswear. He simply donned the perfect footballer’s gear once, before his tenure, during a charity match in 2008.

François Hollande on May 20, 2008 during a charity football match at the Charléty stadium.  (PATRICK HERTZOG / AFP)

Nicolas Sarkozy and Emmanuel Macron: sport as a political tool

In an interview at Figaro in 2018, former President Sarkozy declared: “I like three things: playing sports, watching sports and talking with athletes”. A great communicator, he put forward his passion for cycling, a popular sport, by showing up regularly in the saddle.

He also practices running very regularly, like the American presidents. On May 15, 2012, just after the handover of power with François Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy went for a jog. “Holland did not want to follow me”, he will say later in Le Figaro. He is also very regularly present in the VIP stand of the Parc des Princes to encourage Paris Saint-Germain.

The current president, Emmanuel Macron, is also passionate about football, but supports the rival team, Olympique de Marseille. Like Nicolas Sarkozy, with whom he is close, he knows how to take sporting success to his advantage, as when he was largely associated with the victory of the Blues at the 2018 World Cup. More interventionist, he did not hesitated, after the last Olympic Games, to express his disappointment with the French record and to set a target of Top 5 at the Paris Games in 2024. An injunction not much appreciated by medal-winning athletes, such as Teddy Riner, who believe that the sports policy of the head of state is insufficient.

Leave a Comment