French ambassador hosts reception for Pakistani Olympic Athletes

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Ambassador

ISLAMABAD, JUL 8 /DNA/ – Nicolas Galey, Ambassador of France to Pakistan, hosted a reception at the French Embassy in Islamabad to honor the Pakistani Olympic Community participating in the upcoming Paris Olympics 2024.

The event brought together Pakistani athletes who have qualified for the Olympic Games, along with coaches and officials from the Pakistan Olympic Association.

SPEECH OF THE AMBASSADOR OF France NICOLAS GALEY

I am very pleased to welcome you all to celebrate the forthcoming Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which will kick off in exactly 18 days. In fact, these 33rd Olympic Games will take place from 26 July to 11 August 2024. They will bring together 206 nations and 10,500 athletes. This great summer sporting competition would not be complete without the Paralympic Games, the 27th edition of which will take place from 28 August to 8 September 2024. It will bring together 91 nations, competing in 22 disciplines. The Paralympic Games were created by a British doctor who, after the Second World War, took the initiative of organising international Games at his hospital near London. His ambition was to organise a competition reserved for wounded war veterans. the became a reality in 1960 in Rome with the first Paralympic Games, which brought together 400 athletes from 23 countries.

At a time when wars and conflicts are multiplying across the world, let’s go back to the history of the Olympics to highlight the spirit that guided their advent. As you know, the first ancient Olympic Games date back to 776 B.C. They were organised every 4 years in Greece in the stadium of Olympia. These Games were not just about sporting competition; they also ensured cohesion between the Greek cities.

After the Roman conquest of Greece by the Romans in the 2nd century BC, and 12 centuries of existence, the games were banned, and it was not until the end of the 19th century that they were reinvented by the French educator and historian Pierre de Coubertin.

Pierre de Coubertin was convinced that re-establishing the ancient Olympic Games could be a way of promoting sport and physical education in schools, which had played an important role in the education of young Ancient Greeks. At a time when the borders of Europe were just coming into being, he thought that the Olympics would be a guarantee of international peace. With this in mind, he created the International Olympic Committee in 1894 and two years later, the first modern Olympic Games were held, in Athens of course, bringing together 14 nations to compete in 9 sports, including athletics, swimming and fencing.

There’s more to the modern Olympic Games than the Summer Games. Indeed, in1924, the first Winter Olympics were held in Chamonix, in the French Alps and it was during these winter games that Pakistani athletes particularly shone.

To give the Games a distinctive identity, Pierre de Coubertin also wanted to surround the Games with symbols: a flag, a motto and the Olympic flame. The Olympic flag is made up of 5 interlaced rings of different colours, symbolising the 5 continents that took part in the Games when they were created.

The Latin motto of the Olympic Games “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (faster, higher, stronger) symbolises excellence: it’s not about glorifying performance or victory, but about giving the best of oneself, making progress and surpassing oneself every day, in the stadiums as in life.

The Olympics also have a principle, expressed by Coubertin by this famous phrase : “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part.” And the games have two official languages, French and English, which have to be used in all official announcements during the competition.

Finally, the tradition of the Olympic flame burning during the ancient Olympic Games, which  was revived for the Amsterdam Games in 1928. The principle of the torch relay, which runs from Greece to the country organising the Games, dates back to the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games .This year, the flame was lit in Olympia, Greece; on May 8, it arrived in France by sea, on a magnificent sailboat built in 1896.

After having travelled throughout France, including the French overseas territories, it will arrive in Paris for the opening ceremony on July 26. A very original ceremony indeed since it will take place not in a stadium but on the river which crosses Paris, the Seine.

Now let’s talk about our two friendly countries, Pakistan and France, and the Olympics.

Since 1948, Pakistan has taken part in 18 Summer Games and 4 Winter Olympic Games, winning 10 medals including 3 gold medals, mainly in Field Hockey but also in Boxing and Wrestling. Pakistan first participated at the Summer Paralympic Games in 1992 and has always sent athletes to compete since then, winning 3 medals (1 gold, 1 silver and 1 bronze) in Long jump and Discus throw.

For its part, France has taken part in 53 Olympic Games (29 summer and 24 winter) and won 889 medals since it first participation in the Summer Games, in 1896. After the Paris 2024 Games, France will have hosted the Olympic Games 6 times, and it may even host the 2030 Winter Olympics, again in the French Alps, but this has to be decided by the International Olympic Committee.

As part of the Paris 2024 Games, I would like to wish the best of luck to the 8 to 10 Pakistani athletes: Mr Ghulam Mustafa BASHIR (Shooting, 25 meters Rapid Fire Pistol), Mr Gulfam JOSEPH (Shooting, 10 meters Air Pistol and 10 meters Air Pistol Mixed), Mrs Faiqa RIAZ (Sprint 100 meters) as well as Mrs Jehanara NABI (200 meter freestyle swimming), Mr Muhammad Ahmed DURRANI (Freestyle Swimming, 200 meters)  and Mrs Kishmala TALAT, who could become Pakistan’s first Olympic medallist in 10 and 25 meter Pistol Shooting competition.

Pakistan will also be worthily represented in the Discus-throw by Mr Haider ALI, and Javelin throw by Mr Arshad NADEEM, both multi-medallists at various Games.

Two others athletes, Mrs Kiran RAFIQ (Sprint, 100 meters) and Mr Nabeel IQBAL (Powerlifting), are waiting for a slot confirmation for likely participating in the Games. I also think of their coaches, the support staff and the whole team of Pakistan Olympic Association and National Paralympic Committee, who must be proud and congratulated for their dedication at the eve of this great moment for all of you.

To conclude, I would like to recall the Olympic values (friendship, respect, excellence) as well as the Paralympic values (determination, equality, inspiration and courage), and stress that the aim of the Olympic movement is to help building a peaceful and better world by educating young people through sport practised without discrimination.

It is to illustrate this spirit that we are happy to exhibit today these wonderful and moving photos on the theme of “Sport and Fraternity”. An exhibition I had the pleasure to inaugurate a few weeks ago in Lahore and which will travel to Karachi in August. These photos show the Olympic values at their best; they demonstrate who sport can facilitate encounters, mutual support between competitors and fraternity between individuals from all backgrounds and origins.

With this, allow me to thank the Alliance Française for bringing these beautiful photos to Islamabad, and wish all Pakistani athletes success at the Paris Olympic Games – which may also be, for many, the first time you will visit the French capital.

I sincerely wish you an excellent stay in France and, in a few days from now, I will follow not only the French but also the Pakistani athletes, and be sure that all of us here at the French Embassy will support your and celebrate your victories!

Merci, Shukrya, thank you.