In La Courneuve, two athletes want to believe in the positive effects of the Games

The Games seen from La Courneuve

The world Since January, the Olympic and Paralympic Games have been reported from the town located in Seine-Saint-Denis, a department supposed to benefit fully from the Games. La Courneuve is located in the middle, rife with tensions linked to major urban transformations, exacerbated by the Games, and a very degraded social situation. How will they take place there, with what effects? Municipality, associative fabric, sports clubs, workers, high-level athletes testify.

  • First episode: In La Courneuve, we “would like to see the Games arrive with the eyes of a child”

“Years of training, sacrifices, doubts, psychological fatigue. » “A giant magnifying glass on a sporting moment that can change our lives and that of our loved ones. Everything is tenfold. » The famous “JO effect”: Rafik Arabat and Gwladys Epangue are well placed to know it. They live it, or have experienced it on a daily basis.

He, 33 years old, disabled weightlifting champion, silver medalist at the European Championships in 2022, will try, between now and June, to qualify for the Paralympic Games. She, a taekwondo champion with a long sporting career, was a bronze medalist at the Beijing Games in 2008, and participated in those in Rio in 2016, before hanging up at the age of 33.

But, listening to the two athletes, from the Games “at home”, it reaches yet another dimension. Because, in their case, it will really be on their “territory”, since both reside in La Courneuve (Seine-Saint-Denis), close to many of the future competition sites.

“We don’t give up, especially when it happens at home”, notes Rafik Arabat, for whom this is probably the last chance to participate in the Olympic event, after he missed Tokyo 2021 due to Covid-19 contamination. ” Bad luck. »

Gwladys Epangue has just one word about these Games on the doorstep: ” Crazy ! » « After the World Cup [de football] in 1998, the two Rugby World Cups, 2007 and 2023, here are the Games… I feel spoiled”affirms the one who joined the Paris 2024 athletes’ commission, a body of around fifteen members supposed to make the voice of sportspeople heard within the Organizing Committee.

For both, it is also an opportunity to believe that, beyond the sole festive aspect, the event is likely to have a lasting effect. On the city, on the department of Seine-Saint-Denis and more widely too: “This is an opportunity to change mentalities about disability,” advances Rafik Arabat.

Gwladys Epangue, bronze medalist at the Beijing Games (2012) in taekwondo, at the GTA La Courneuve club, January 29, 2024.

“Volunteer high-level athlete”

To discuss what the Games represent and what he expects from them, we sat down with the weightlifter in the empty MMA (mixed martial arts) cage of a gym in the city, a small temple of bodybuilding, Thai boxing and free-fighting. A room which opened in place of a cosmetic display factory, during the health crisis, attracting an explosive mix: “Police officers, boxers, powerlifting champions, even DJ Bob Sinclar”as listed by the founder of the place, Yoan Ayeche.

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