Gymnasium: “We show once again that sport is at the top of the list in Caen”

Aristide Olivier, who is here at the Ornano during Caen’s last home game of the season, hopes hosting the Gymnasium will boost physical activity among Caen’s youth. © Aline Shuttle

Swimming, athletics and shooting will be part of the Gymnasium 2022 program in Caen. Over a thousand young athletes (15-18 years old) will compete at Naval Stadium, Helitas Stadium and Phoenix Stadium from Monday 16 May 2022. For the Vice Mayor in charge of sports, Aristide Olivier, the event should enhance Caen as much as it enhances physical activity.

What process enabled Normandy, and especially Caen, to host the Gymnasium?

It was the first France to apply. I got organized. Thereafter, Normandy, through the UNSS, came forward with a desire to organize an event that would cut through all the major cities of the region. That’s why we have events in Caen, Le Havre, Rouen. The main office is in Deauville. In Caen we get three great events with athletics, swimming and archery. Athletics and swimming will also be held in Caen. This is the first time they have joined the Gymnasiade programme.

We said yes to this gymnasium because it allowed us to connect sports and youth. This also allowed us to enhance the sporting dimension of the city for the youngest and high school students.

Is there a connection between this gymnasium and the proximity of the 2024 Olympic Games in France?

These are two things that were done at different times. The fact that this is happening in 2022 allows us to open up this wonderful sequence that will take us to the Olympics in 2024 and include Caen in this sporting dynamic. In addition, there was a favorable set of conditions with the Normandy Canal Race, currently, and the elite French Athletics Championships in just over a month. This opens up a great gym session.

Showing the benefits of sports to youngsters

How many athletes will there be in Caen? Where will they be housed?

All athletes will be welcomed to Deauville. In Caen, there will be just over 1,000 athletes: about 600 in athletics, 300 in swimming and a hundred in shooting. They will be in Caen for four days. Shuttles will take them.

Do you also want to promote Caen through this Gymnasiade?

Yes, quite clearly. There is a double component: demonstrating the benefits of sport to young people and further enhancing the sporting dimension that has long been present in Caen. We revitalize it through sporting events. We once again show that sport is at the top of the bill in our city.

Do Caen youth exercise a lot of sports?

They do sports, first of all because we are fortunate to have so many sports facilities in Caen. All Caennais are located less than five minutes from a sports facility. This part of the infrastructure allows you to play sports. But the people of Canet, like the rest of the population in France, do a little less sporting activities than they did 15 or 20 years ago. This should raise questions for us collectively because it is a fundamental public health issue. We are now trying to get young people to exercise.

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How to make young people return to sports more?

We are facing a social movement. Stability is observed regardless of age groups. This is an issue that we already identified a few years ago in Caen. The Sports Prescription device we launched four years ago had a very special angle, especially in regards to childhood obesity. The goal was to identify, particularly in the school setting, immobile and overweight children to be included in this regimen. These are thirty free sessions, fully subsidized by the city, with a hyphen in the club so they can continue to exercise. The system works really well, especially because we’ve been following these guys for a year.

At the same time, we will have to use the Olympic Games to bring sports into the daily lives of Kennes and Kenny. It’s a huge issue. It is not just a slogan. I am absolutely convinced that this is the challenge of the Olympic Games, here, where there will be no event. When we talk about sports, it is not necessarily a competitive sport. It is a physical activity. We will be launching a full program at the beginning of the academic year in September.

The gymnasium, the French Athletics Championships, the new Palais des Sports, the reception of Olympic delegations … the dynamism is good for Caen!

We’ve had more difficult years (smiles). Caen is truly a sports city. When you see the Palais des Sports is full of CBC’s knockout matches, there were 18,000 people in d’Ornano for a no-bet match… Caen and Caen residents love sports. At the moment, there is a good relationship between events and clubs that are doing well. This highlights that sport in Caen is a positive reality.

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