The Francophone Games, also called the Jeux de la Francophonie, is an event held in a French-speaking country every four years. It's a combination of sporting events and artistic presentations to celebrate the cultural diversity and cultural treasures among the participating French-speaking nations.
The Francophone Games
The Francophone Games began in 1989, although sporadic events were held since the 1970s in Francophone countries. The games were officially organized and launched in 1989. Every four years, member countries send their best athletes to compete in Olympics-style events. Other celebrations include artistic presentations. Songs and poetry, as well as native dances and other presentations, offer an artistic counterpoint to the games themselves. The 2009 games were held in Beirut, Lebanon and were watched by more than 70 million people worldwide.
Some believe that the Francophone Games began as competition with the Commonwealth Games. The Commonwealth Games celebrate the countries belonging to the former British Empire. Approximately the same number of countries participate in the Commonwealth Games as in the Francophone Games, but their origins are British, rather than French.
It's fascinating how the old rivalries between these two countries have been channeled through the centuries into sporting events. England and France have long been rivals; throughout history, the two countries fought, and for a long time France was the language of the courts of England. With the rise and fall of the British Empire from the 19th through the 20th century, the rivalry became friendship…but the two distinct cultures, the French infused culture and the British Empire culture, have now been channeled into the two major sporting events.
Fifty-five countries participate in the Francophone Games. Members include the obvious, such as France and Canada (primarily Quebec), but other countries throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa send athletes and artists to participate. From countries were French is spoken by only sections of the population, such as Canada and Belgium, participation is restricted to athletes from the French speaking sections alone. Participation varies between about 1,500 and 3,000 athletes annually, with the 2009 Beirut games welcoming over 3,000 athletes.
The Francophone Games include events popular in French-speaking countries, such as tennis, table tennis, and judo. Track and field is extremely popular, and is simply called 'athletics' by the French-speaking countries. Men and women participate in most of the events and compete separately, men against men and women against women. Other sporting competitions held at the Francophone Games include wrestling, volleyball, handball, boxing, and football (soccer).
Because the games are a celebration of culture, rather than athletic prowess alone, many artistic events and celebrations enhance the games. Songs and music are quite popular, with many famous French-speaking vocalists and musicians from around the world performing for millions of fans. Traditional folk dances are also quite popular, and it's not uncommon to see performance by African dancers followed by European folk dancers in lederhosen and dirndl skirts.
Other artistic events include exhibitions of sculpture and art from participating French-speaking countries, and celebrations of traditional fairy tales, folk tales, and poetry. In 2001, a street fair was set up to encourage visitors to enjoy the wonderful artistic and culture treasures from participating nations.
Where to Catch the Games
If you're curious about the Francophone Games, you can learn more information from the following resources: