“In order to change people’s lives, sport must become a habit”
“I believe in the power of sport. Life has taught me that it can change things and play a crucial part in inclusion and education. I’ve always thought this. Nowadays, I still have the same belief in the strength and impact of its values. That’s why, on a daily basis, I get engaged at a grass roots level, as well as with institutions. I was involved in the bid for the 2024 Games in Paris, working on the legacy side. I live in Seine-Saint-Denis so I am directly concerned by the way in which an event like this can benefit the population of the region, in terms of jobs and also by infusing a real culture of sport. After the football Euro in 2016, people were disappointed. Nothing changed. The legacy was set aside. After France won the candidacy for the 2024 Games, I was asked to join the board of directors of the organizing committee. I accepted the post in order to continue on the same path: legacy. I want to work on how the Olympic and Paralympic Games can leave a lifelong mark on people’s lives.
Three or four years ago, the decline in public subsidies threatened the survival of community sport. In Seine-Saint-Denis, the danger was real, especially for young people. We lose a lot of them as teenagers. With the prospect of the 2024 Games, I feel that things are moving. People are more attentive. Grants are starting to arrive for locally-based associations. They are substantial but they won’t last. In order not to lose momentum once the Games are over, we have to focus on young people. With discipline, commitment and patience. They should have sport or physical activity in their lives, which then becomes a habit. Give them confidence, help them feel better. Only then can we talk about the legacy of the Paris 2024 Games.
I’ve seen the power of sport again in recent months during a StartUsUp program that I run at the initiative of the United States Embassy in France. Every week, we help a group of 14 French start-up entrepreneurs aged 25 to 42 from Ile-de-France, Lille, Nantes and Lyon. The idea was to help them prepare for the Games so that they can win contracts to provide services, as well as giving them access to tender invitations in time and showing how to answer them. The project is linked to ESS2024, the solidarity platform of the Paris 2024 Olympics.
The training takes place in the form of workshops, involving experts from different sectors. But it also has a sports component, with boxing classes…- my discipline. Through sport, I wanted to make them understand the importance of taking care of themselves, to train and stay in shape alongside their professional life. I also wanted to establish a link between boxing and business projects: discipline, excellence, uniformity in work, etc. Over the weeks, an incredible solidarity has developed between the participants. The group has seen them through in difficult times, inevitable in the creation of a company. Together, they were stronger. They supported each other. Even I, with my personal background and my boxing career, never fully realised the strength of these values.
I once again discovered the strength of a group when I joined the Champions for Peace club. Our united action and our determination each day helps to demonstrate that sport can be more than a simple sports performance; it can play a genuine role to serve society.”