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Monday, 05 May 2008

Sport in Paris - Page 3

Written by Matt Genner
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Watching rugby at the Stade Jean Bouin is like no other sporting experience. Only in Paris, a city which embraces individuality, can ten thousand people arrive to watch a rugby match dressed in pink replica shirts, waving pink flags and holding heart-shaped pink balloons.

Towards the end of the displays there is a look back at the development of the tennis racquet. Looking at some of the small, wooden rackets of the 1900’s it is difficult to imagine anyone being able to keep a rally going for more than a few strokes.

Sport in Paris, Stade Jean Bouin, Tenniseum, Stade de France, Tour de France, FIFA World Cup, European Football Championships, Olympic games

Throughout Paris there are hundreds of public tennis courts and one of the most beautiful places to play is the Jardin du Luxembourg in the city center, where there are several courts. The heart of the park is an octagonal pond, known as the Grand Bassin, situated in front of the Palais du Luxembourg. Sport in Paris, Stade Jean Bouin, Tenniseum, Stade de France, Tour de France, FIFA World Cup, European Football Championships, Olympic gamesHere, students from the nearby Sorbonne University gather to chat and read, while office workers take a break from the hectic city center. Children can rent model boats to sail in the pond and in the surrounding alleys old men play the traditional French sports of petanque and boules, while socializing with a glass or two of wine.

Unlike in the rest of France, the working class have never dominated sport in Paris. It has often been seen as a status symbol to be a member of one of the city’s sporting clubs and sport has had close connections with some of the city’s famous writers, artists and political figures.

In the late nineteenth century the most famous of Paris’s velodromes, the Buffalo, was opened by the socialite and writer Tristan Bernard. His friend, the artist Toulouse-Lautrec, was a regular in the crowd and painted several famous posters to publicize the event. Several examples of his work are on display at the Montmartre museum which is located in a seventeenth century country manor on rue Cortot. The building was home to Renoir, Suzanne Valadon and her son Utrillo, as well as Raoul Dufy and many other artists, and is the oldest building standing on the famous hill.

Sport in Paris, Stade Jean Bouin, Tenniseum, Stade de France, Tour de France, FIFA World Cup, European Football Championships, Olympic gamesMontmartre is made up of crowded, cobbled streets lined with portrait painters and leafy stairways leading to the Sacré Coeur Basilica. In the past the area was frequented by bohemian artists and writers, who were famous for their consumption of absinthe in the many cafes and bars. The museum details the history of Montmartre and its interesting residents through the artwork they produced and the entertainment venues, such as Le Chat Noir, which they opened.

The Moulin Rouge is undoubtedly the best known of all Paris’s dance halls and captured the imagination of Toulouse-Lautrec, whose numerous paintings of the dancers can be seen in the museum. Cycling also fascinated the artist, who saw it as another fashionable form of popular entertainment and several prints he created for the Buffalo can be viewed and bought in the museum’s shop. In many ways he was a revolutionary artist and he could see the potential and excitement of spectator sports at a time when others could not.


On the first floor of the museum is a statue of Saint Denis, who in 250 AD was beheaded. It is said that he put his head under his arm and headed north where two miles later he collapsed and died. The site was marked by a small shrine which became the Saint Denis Basilica but the area is perhaps more famous now as the home of the French national football and rugby teams, the Stade de France.

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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