London 2012 – French Olympics ‘would be interested in gold not money’ says Francois Hollande

Daily Telegraph - 31 July 2012

Francois Hollande has questioned the need for so many corporate seats at the London 2012 Olympics, saying a French version would be interested in “gold not money”.

Expressing surprise at the number of empty places at the games, the French president suggested that rich corporate clients were simply not turning up.

Speaking during a visit to London on Monday, he said: “The problem is that there are simply too many corporate seats.

“It will be up to French organisers to sort out this problem if a bid for a future games is to be successful.”

Mr Hollande confirmed that a number of French cities, including Paris, were likely to bid for the 2024 Olympics after losing this year’s games to London.

“I am not here to announce a candidacy,’ he said, “but we will present an extremely strong bid.”

Highlighting the fact that his Socialist government detested corporate greed and was solely interested in winning medals, Mr Hollande said: “We don’t talk of money, we talk of gold.”

Mr Hollande stopped short of directly criticising the British, however, saying: “The London Olympics have been very well organised. I’m not here to be a killjoy or to give lessons to the British. It’s not worthy of France.”

But Mr Hollande made it clear that he disapproved of corporate clients being given free tickets which they did not use.

Most of the events in London have, so far, been blighted by rows of empty seats.

Mr Hollande also enjoyed a joke at the expense of Prime Minister David Cameron, who had promised to roll out the “red carpet” for French people escaping high taxes.

Pointing to the fact that France was currently beating Britain in the medals table, Mr Hollande said: “The British have rolled out a red carpet for French athletes to win medals. I thank them very much for that, but the competition is not over.”

In another dig – this time at the Euroscepticism of Mr Cameron’s Conservatives – Mr Hollande also said that “it is the results of Europe that will count in the games.

“We will put the French medals into the Europe pot, so that the British will be happy to be European.”

Before losing 2012 to London, Paris failed to win the 2008 Games, which were awarded to Beijing.

Mr Hollande, who replaced the conservative Nicolas Sarkozy as French president in May, attended a number of events involving French athletes on Monday, before returning to Paris.

France has had a successful Olympics so far – with seven medals, including three gold in the pool. Mr Hollande on Monday night watched Yannick Agnel defeat American Ryan Lochte in the 200m freestyle.

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