Over the past 10 years in particular, France has developed a genuine sports diplomacy, which is today seen as a foreign policy tool in its own right. Beyond the performance of French athletes, sport is an exceptional showcase for national innovation and expertise in many areas, including economic, social and environmental sectors. Sport thus plays an important role in French soft diplomacy, on which many government services are working in close collaboration with the French sports movement, businesses and territories.
The Rugby World Cup and the 2024 Paris Games are unique opportunities for France to promote its vision and expertise for accessible, inclusive and sustainable sports to foreign authorities, sports actors and the general public. To that end, the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE) is playing an integral role in organizing these major sporting events, whether in terms of consular and protocol matters, communications or crisis management.
The legacy of these two sporting events will be built over the long term, particularly through the implementation of the government’s Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Legacy Plan.
Sport has become a major cooperation tool in our bilateral relationships. Hosting major international sporting events in France increases our partners’ interest in deepening partnerships in the sector. The diplomatic network, via the Embassies with “Land of the 2024 Games” certification, are actively supporting the French sports movement’s international exchanges and the sporting ecosystem in their countries of residence.
Furthermore, French diplomacy pays special attention to sport’s contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Within this framework, the MEAE has financed 18 FSPI projects since 2019, using sport as a lever for development, education, gender equality, etc., mainly in Africa. Since 2023, “fast FSPI” projects, lasting no more than one year, have been added. Decentralized cooperation in the area of sports has also strongly developed since the creation of a dedicated call for projects in 2021, enabling the financing of 35 cooperation projects between French and foreign local government bodies, with the support of our embassies and certain consulates, worth a total of €3.2 million (2021 to 2023).
As an MEAE agency, in 2018 the AFD (French Development Agency) was mandated to draw up a Sports and Development strategy. Since then, over €112 million has been allocated to cooperation projects. It is within this framework that funding was provided for projects to strengthen women’s rugby in Benin, to develop academies bringing together sport and education for young people (in Senegal, Liberia, Morocco, Cameroon, Mali and South Africa), and to strengthen social cohesion in Africa via the “Sport en Commun” platform which supports, among others, high-level French and African athletes in creating associations using sport as a development tool.
Alongside the Ministry of Sport and the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the economic interest grouping France Sport Expertise, Business France and the entire sports sector, the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs supports the international development of French sports companies. It is also working on our territories’ economic attractiveness with a view to hosting major international sporting events, including by supporting French candidacies.
The diplomatic network also helps promote French positions on major sports-related issues such as governance, ethics, the fight against doping and rigged matches and the fight against discrimination. This action takes place within international sporting bodies but also international bodies (UN, UNESCO, European Union, OECD, Council of Europe).
Finally, the Ministry ensures that the French language is used and promoted during sporting events, particularly the Olympic and Paralympic Games (support for the signing of an agreement between the OIF and the Paris 2024 Organizing Committee, French involvement in the Francophone Games organized in Kinshasa in July/August 2022, etc.).
Finally, the Dioko Alliance is an example of success in terms of “sports Francophonie”, which encourages shared expertise and knowledge between France and Senegal with regard to Paris 2024 and Dakar 2026 (Youth Olympic Games (YOG)). The aim is to provide support to Senegal to make this first African Olympiad a success – particularly by building and renovating sports facilities for the YOG – but also by providing them with a legacy for the people of Senegal, e.g. by developing local sports facilities.
In addition to regular sporting events such as the French Open (Roland-Garros), the Tour de France and the Vendée Globe, France has recently staged several major international sporting events: the World Men’s Handball Championship in 2017, UEFA Euro 2016, the Ryder Cup golf competition in 2018, the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the Track Cycling World Championships in 2021, the Alpine World Ski Championships (February 2023), the World Para Athletics Championships (July 2023) and the Rugby World Cup (October 2023).
This momentum is set to continue over the next five years, as France prepares to play host to over 40 major international sporting events. In addition to the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, it will host several world championships such as the Pétanque World Championships in December 2024, the Badminton World Championships in 2025 and the World Cycling Championships and Canoe-Kayak World Championships in 2027, not forgetting the annual Tour de France!
Updated: December 2023