As the Paris Olympics Promise New Ambition, Old Anxieties Intensify
By Andrew Tully
Paris is the only city in the world that hosts the Olympics without a major scandal.
That, say many commentators, says more about the country’s culture of accountability than it does about anything that happened last night in the Olympic Stadium. There was only one scandal in the entire five-week Olympic programme (apart from one case of drug use at an opening ceremony, a few cases of doping in training, some of it a little too obvious to have been concealed from outsiders), the deaths of hundreds of spectators, and a few small incidents too.
This calm is in contrast to everything else that went wrong in France last night. The government had a choice. It could have chosen to make things more pleasant and less like the previous government, or it could have chosen to confront their problems head-on and make things better. Instead, it ran away from both possibilities. The government made the Olympics into a great success and they are now celebrating the huge popularity of it. But they chose not to tackle the problems faced by the nation and instead chose to run away from those problems by using the Olympics to distract everyone from the real issues in a country that is still struggling to find its feet as a modern state.
The trouble is, the Olympics are not about the real problems; the real problems are in France’s national political culture. And French culture has for some time been very conservative. This means that French culture has not just been indifferent to new social opportunities, but has actively repressed them. The way the French government has dealt with the issue of gay marriage, for example, is simply to put it out of its mind. (The first time that gay marriage was legalised, in 2005, France was the first country to do so in the world.) And for the past seven years, the French government has done nothing to make sure that women’s football is properly legalised. All it can do is take on board the first suggestions of the French Football League (FFRTV), and make an attempt to improve the situation. For example, last year, the FFRTV made a statement