rfi 2024-07-09 04:11:56



French elections 2024

France keeps PM on as caretaker as wrangling over new government begins

France was in the hands of a caretaker government on Monday after snap parliamentary elections defeated the far right but failed to produce a majority for any political camp. With parliament roughly divided into three disparate groups, there are no obvious candidates for the prime minister who will lead a new French government.

The outcome of the legislative elections, called by President Emmanuel Macron three years ahead of schedule, leaves France without any clear path to forming a new government less than three weeks before the Paris Olympics.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal submitted his resignation on Monday morning, but the president’s office said that it had asked him to stay on as caretaker PM “for the time being” for the sake of stability.

The left is emerging as the biggest group in the new parliament but has yet to even agree on a figure who it would want to be the new prime minister.

The unprecedented situation is taking shape just as Macron is due to be out of the country for most of the week, taking part in a NATO summit in Washington.

Surprise election win for left-green coalition plunges France into uncertainty

Left seeks common line

Early results from the second and final round of voting on Sunday showed the left won 187 seats, Macron’s centrist alliance 159 and the far-right National Rally (RN) and its allies 142.

The outcome delivered a stinging blow to Macron and leaves France in limbo, heralding a period of political instability rarely seen in the country’s post-war history.

Parties from the left-wing New Popular Front (NFP) – made up of the hard-left France Unbowed, the Socialist Party, the Communist Party and the Greens – met overnight for the first talks on how to proceed.

[Slideshow] Jubilant crowds fill Place de la République in Paris after exit polls

The bloc – which was formed in haste to fight the snap elections – has no overall leader, and its parties are divided over who they could select as a suitable premier.

Short of an outright majority by around 100 seats, the NFP will also rely on alliances with other groupings if it is to govern. 

“The NFP will enact its programme, nothing but its programme but its complete programme,” Jean-Luc Melenchon, the polarising leader of France Unbowed, the biggest party in the alliance, insisted on Sunday night.

Meanwhile Olivier Faure, head of the Socialists, ruled out a “coalition of opposites, which would betray the votes of the French public”.

President’s choice

Parts of the left remain bitterly opposed to many of the outgoing government’s flagship policies, notably its hard-fought pension reform.

Some prominent centrist figures, including Edouard Philippe, a former prime minister under Macron, said they were ready to work on a pact to ensure a stable government.

Yet while centrists encouraged their supporters to block the far right in the second round by voting tactically for candidates from the mainstream right and left, many of Macron’s allies have said they see France Unbowed as another dangerous extreme.

Some on the right have floated the idea of a so-called “moderate bloc” made up of the centre and those lightly to the right and left of it.

Cautious relief in Europe as French vote keeps far right from power

Under the French constitution, the president is responsible for appointing a prime minister, who can be anyone from inside or outside parliament.

But the choice is effectively subject to MPs’ approval, who can overturn it with a vote of no confidence.

Macron, who has yet to speak in public since the vote, is calling for “prudence and analysis of the results”, an aide told French news agency AFP, asking not to be named.

According to the constitution, fresh parliamentary elections cannot now be called for at least one year.

(with newswires)


French elections 2024

New Caledonia elects pro-independence candidate in French elections

The restive French Pacific territory of New Caledonia has elected a pro-independence indigenous Kanak candidate to France’s parliament – the first since 1986 – in a move that could change the dynamic of negotiations over independence after weeks of deadly unrest.

New Caledonia has two seats in France’s National Assembly.

Emmanuel Tjibaou, 48, won the second constituency in the rural north of the territory, beating loyalist candidate Alcide Ponga by 13,404 votes.

The first constituency, which includes the capital Noumea, was won by right-wing pro-France candidate Nicolas Metzdorf on 52.41 percent.

Metzdorf beat the pro-independence candidate Omayra Naisseline, although the margin was lower than expected.

Turnout on the archipelago was 71.35 percent – the highest in legislative elections since 1981.

Son of key independence leader

Tjibaou becomes the first pro-independence to win a seat in the national assembly since 1986.

While he is new to party politics, he has held several important positions in New Caledonia’s cultural sphere and directed the Agency for the Development of Kanak Culture – a public body set up to promote the culture of the territory’s indigenous people. 

He is the son of a well-known Kanak independence leader, Jean-Marie Tjibaou, who was assassinated in 1989.

Tjibaou’s father had signed the 1988 Matignon Accords with mainland France, bringing a period of peace to the archipelago after four years of near civil war. 

Tjibaou’s election could change the balance of power in discussions on the territory’s future which have been blocked since the third of three referendums on independence as part of the Matignon and then 1998 Noumea accords went in favour of remaining with France.

However, leaders of the Socialist Kanak National Liberation Front (FLNKS) refuse to recognise the results.

  • Key dates in New Caledonia’s history

‘Dramatic situation’

The election comes just weeks after deadly violence flared up in the capital Noumea and the surrounding region over plans by the government to make constitutional changes to voting lists, which Indigenous Kanaks feared would further marginalise them.

Nine people – including two police officers – died in the violence, hundreds were wounded and more than 1.5  billion euros of damage caused to shops and infrastructure.

While violence has subsided, a night-time curfew is in place through to 15 July.

  • France declares state of emergency in New Caledonia after deadly riots
  • More unrest in New Caledonia after protest leaders extradited

Tjibaou’s brother Joël was charged and remanded in custody in June for his alleged role in the riots.

Speaking on public broadcaster NC la 1ère on Sunday, Tjibaou said he deplored the “dramatic situation” in New Caledonia and said there was now an urgent need to “restore the conditions” for renewed dialogue between pro-independence and pro-France parties”, New Zealand’s RNZ reported

The constitutional reform needed to change the territory’s electoral law has been de facto put on ice, after President Emmanuel dissolved parliament for the snap elections.


French elections 2024

Cautious relief in Europe as French vote keeps far right from power

France’s allies in Europe expressed relief after the far-right National Rally failed to win snap parliamentary elections – but with no other group winning a majority and protracted uncertainty looming, the celebrations were measured.

After a first round of voting one week ago, the National Rally (RN) had been favourite to top the polls, threatening to upend economic and foreign policy in the euro zone’s second-largest economy.

In the end, other parties joined forces to block it in the second round on Sunday and the RN was left in third place behind alliances of the left and centre.

Left leads in French parliamentary vote, Macron’s party second, National Rally third

Progressive leaders across Europe congratulated the left-wing coalition, the New Popular Front (NFP), on taking the lead just a few weeks after it was formed.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez declared that France, like Spain, had said “yes to progress and social advancement and no to regression in rights and freedoms”. 

Nikos Androulakis, the head of Greece’s Socialist party, said the French public had “raised a wall against the far right, racism and intolerance and guarded the timeless principles of the French Republic: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.”

Relief for Ukraine

There was also relief for those who worried a far-right government would upend France’s foreign policy in Europe.

“In Paris enthusiasm, in Moscow disappointment, in Kyiv relief. Enough to be happy in Warsaw,” Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk wrote on social media.

Though the RN now calls Russia a threat, its line on President Vladimir Putin and his invasion of Ukraine has been ambiguous at times. 

Has France’s far-right National Rally really turned on Russia?

Poland and other allies of Ukraine had feared an RN government could be soft on Moscow and pare back military aid that Kyiv has relied on since the Russian invasion in 2022.

The Kremlin greeted the results with “neither hope nor any particular illusion” for an improvement in relations between Paris and Moscow. No political faction has shown a clear will to pursue that aim, said presidential spokesperson Dmitri Peskov.

Uncertainty ahead

“What we feared did not come to pass,” commented a spokesperson for German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Monday, telling a press conference that the leaders of France’s biggest neighbour felt a “certain relief”.  

The RN’s defeat signals at least a partial pushback against the far right in Europe, but with no majority in parliament, France looks set for political instability for the weeks and months to come.

The National Assembly, France’s lower house of parliament, is now split between three large groups with little common ground.

Nils Schmid, the foreign policy spokesperson for Scholz’s Social Democrats, said the worst had been avoided – but the results were still a blow to French President Emmanuel Macron.

“The president is politically weakened, even if he retains a central role in view of the unclear majority situation. Forming a government will be complicated,” Schmid told the Funke media group.

An EU official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, called it a “huge relief” but added: “What it means for Europe on a day-to-day basis remains to be seen though.”

Surprise election win for left-green coalition plunges France into uncertainty

Disappointment on far right

The snap elections came as Brussels warned France it would have to make spending cuts to get back in line with EU budget rules.

In a hung parliament, those cuts now look harder to pass than ever.

The left-wing NFP, the biggest bloc but well short of a majority, has said it wants to raise the minimum wage and the salaries of public sector workers, as well as cutting income tax and social security charges for lower earners. 

Its plans for the economy would see public spending reach up to 100 billion euros in 2025, which it says would be offset by tax hikes.

Its opponents on Europe’s hard-right forecast doom.

“Bye bye European deficit limits! [The government] will crash in no time. Poor France. It can console itself with [Kylian] Mbappé,” said Claudio Borghi, a senator from Italy’s populist League party, an ally of the RN, referring to the star of France’s national football team.

Meanwhile Andre Ventura, leader of Portugal’s far-right party Chega, called the result a “disaster for the economy, tragedy for immigration and bad for the fight against corruption”.

(with Reuters)


French elections 2024

Surprise election win for left-green coalition plunges France into uncertainty

In France’s biggest political upheaval in decades, a newly formed left-wing alliance is set to take up a majority of seats in parliament, just ahead of Macron’s centrist coalition, with far-right National Rally in third place. While final results are still to be announced, it is clear no one grouping has an absolute majority. So a third round – of jockeying for further alliances – now begins. 

The snap election – called by President Emmanuel Macron following historic wins by the far-right National Rally in June’s European polls – looks like leaving parliament divided into three big groups:  the left, centrists, and the far right.

They each have radically different platforms and no tradition of working together.

France’s political culture is not one of compromise either, so what happens now is far from certain.

Macron has promised to remain as president, but made no public announcement on Sunday, awaiting final results on Monday.

Prime Minister Gabriel Attal announced he would hand in his resignation on Monday. But he also said he could remain in place temporarily, if required, while a new government was formed and to guide France through the upcoming Paris Olympics.

What is clear is that there is major uncertainty over how a government can be formed in what is the EU’s second biggest economy and its leading military power.

A power vaccuum

The left, which wants to cap prices of essential goods like fuel and food, raise the minimum wage to a net 1,600 euros per month, hike wages for public sector workers and impose a wealth tax, immediately said it wanted to govern.

“The will of the people must be strictly respected … the president must invite the New Popular Front to govern,” said Jean-Luc Mélenchon, leader of the hard-left France Unbowed (LFI).

But predictions following the polls put the New Popular Front (NFP) alliance on between 177 and 192 seats, far short of the 289 seats needed to secure an absolute majority in the National Assembly.

“There’s really going to be a vacuum when it comes to France’s legislative ability,” Simon Harvey, head of FX analysis at Monex Europe, told Reuters.

A key question is whether the leftist alliance, which gathers LFI, Greens, Socialists and Communists will remain united and agree on what course to take.

The constitution does not oblige Macron to ask the group to form a government, though that would be the usual step as it is the largest group in parliament.

Melenchon ruled out a broad coalition of parties of different stripes, insisting Macron had a duty to call on the leftist alliance to rule.

  • Can France’s left wing unify to counter far right in legislative elections?

‘Tide is rising’

Macron’s centrist group Ensemble (Together) looks set to come second with between 152 and 158 seats, just ahead of the RN (138 to 145 seats), according to the pollsters’ projections based on early results.

That was a far cry from weeks of opinion polls consistently projecting the RN would win comfortably, before the left and centrist alliances engaged in a tactical voting pact – known as the “republican front”.

Some 224 centrist and NFP candidates pulled out from three-way races to build a unified anti-RN vote.

RN leader Jordan Bardella said the other parties had teamed up to stop the far right in a  “disgraceful alliance” that he said would paralyse France.

Marine Le Pen, who intends to run for president in 2027, said that Sunday’s ballot, which will almost double the current number of RN MPs, had sown the seeds for the future.

“The tide is rising. It did not rise high enough this time, but it contines to rise and our victory has simply been deferred,” the leader of the anti-immigration party said

  • Horse-trading begins after France’s far right wins first round of snap elections

Act like “grown-ups”

In Macron’s entourage, there was no indication of his next move. 

“The question we’re going to have to ask ourselves tonight and in the coming days is: which coalition is capable of reaching the 289 seats to govern?”, a person close to him told Reuters.

Some in his alliance, including former prime minister Edouard Philippe, envisaged a broad cross-party alliance but said it could not include the hard-left France Unbowed.

On the more moderate left, Raphael Glucksmann of Place Publique and the Socialist Party, urged his alliance partners to act like “grown-ups”.

“We’re ahead, but we’re in a divided parliament,” he said. “We’re going to have to talk, to discuss, to engage in dialogue.”

(with newswires)


French elections 2024

In pictures: Jubilant crowds celebrate French election results in Paris

Surprise polling projections in France say a leftist coalition that came together to try to keep the far right from power has won the most parliamentary seats in runoff elections. RFI was at Place de la République in Paris, where a massive crowd of voters celebrated.

The projections were announced at 20:00 local time on Sunday. They are based on the actual vote count in select constituencies, and they put President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist alliance in second and the far right in third.

When the news got out, the diverse crowd of thousands of people that had gathered at Place de la République exploded in applause and cheering.

Voters celebrate at Paris’s Place de la République

 

Surprise election win for left-green coalition plunges France into uncertainty


Disinformation

Russia steps up disinformation campaigns against French elections, Paris Olympics

With the Paris Olympics approaching and snap elections liable to deliver a new government, disinformation campaigns targeting France have gone into overdrive, cybersecurity experts warn. Many suspect that Russia is ultimately to blame.

The French government cybersecurity watchdog, Viginum, released a new report last week detailing the risks ahead for the 2024 Games.

“Digital information manipulation campaigns have become a veritable instrument of destabilisation of democracies,” it said.

“This global event will give untold informational exposure to malevolent foreign actors.”

Viginum did not name Russia in its report, but since June 2023 it has published multiple reports singling out Russian efforts to sow divisions in France and elsewhere. 

  • EU struggles to counter Russian disinformation ahead of European elections

‘Ecosystem’ of disinformation

The Russian campaigns sowing anti-French disinformation began online early last summer but first became tangible in October 2023, when more than 1,000 bots linked to Russia relayed photos of graffitied Stars of David in Paris and its suburbs. 

A French intelligence report said the Russian intelligence agency FSB ordered the tagging, as well as subsequent vandalism of a memorial to those who helped rescue Jews from the Holocaust. 

Photos from each event were amplified on social media by fake accounts linked to the Russian disinformation site RRN, according to cybersecurity experts.

Russia denies any such campaigns. The French intelligence report says RRN is part of a larger operation orchestrated by Sergei Kiriyenko, a ranking Kremlin official.

“You have to see this as an ecosystem,” said a French military official, who spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity. “It’s a hybrid strategy”.

The tags and the vandalism had no direct link to Russia’s war in Ukraine, but they provoked a strong reaction from the French political class, with denunciations in the legislature and public debate.

  • France claims Russian interference over Star of David graffiti in Paris

Sapping support for Ukraine

In March, just after Macron discussed the possibility of mobilising the French military in Ukraine, a fake recruitment drive went up for the French army in Ukraine, spawning a series of posts in Russian- and French-language Telegram channels that got picked up in Russian and Belarusian media, according to a separate French government report.

On 1 June, caskets appeared outside the Eiffel Tower, bearing the inscription “French soldiers in Ukraine”.

The larger disinformation efforts show little traction in France, but the Russian audience may have been the real target, officials say, by showing that Russia’s war in Ukraine is – as Russian President Vladimir Putin has said – really a war with the West. 

Among the broader goals is a long-term and steady effort to sow social discord, erode faith in the media and democratic governments, undermine NATO, and sap Western support for Ukraine.

  • French cyber experts reveal vast network of Russian disinformation sites

Olympics caught in crossfire

Denigrating the Olympics, from which most Russian athletes are banned, is a bonus, according to French officials monitoring posts warning of imminent unrest ahead of the Games.

On 9 June, the French far-right National Rally (RN) trounced Macron’s party in elections for the European Parliament, prompting the president to call snap parliamentary elections.

The RN has historically been close to Russia: its figurehead Marine Le Pen has cultivated ties to Putin for many years and supported Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

In more than 4,400 posts gathered since mid-November by antibot4navalny, a collective that analyses Russian bot behaviour, those targeting audiences in France and Germany predominated.

The number of weekly posts ranged from 100 to 200 except for the week of 5 May, when it dropped near zero, the data showed. That week, as it happens, was a holiday in Russia.

(with AP)


Euro 2024

France football players at Euro 2024 in Germany hail election results back home

Several France players broke away from preparations for Tuesday night’s Euro 2024 semi-final against Spain in Munich to hail the result of the general election back home.

“The victory of the People,” wrote midfielder Aurélien Tchouaméni on X.

Striker Marcus Thuram, who expressed his concern about far-right groups after the European elections on 8 June, said: “Congratulations to all those who came forward in the face of the danger that hovered over our country.

“Long live diversity, long live the Republic, long live France. The fight continues.”

 

Defender Jules Koundé added on X: “The relief is equal to the worry of these recent weeks, it is immense.

“Congratulations to all the French people who mobilized so that this beautiful country that is France does not find itself governed by the extreme right.”

Parties from the left-wing New Popular Front (NFP) – made up of the hard-left France Unbowed, the Socialist Party, the Communist Party and the Greens – combined during the second round of voting on 7 July to become the biggest group in the National Assembly.

[Slideshow] Jubilant crowds fill Place de la République in Paris after exit polls

The bloc – which was formed in haste to fight the snap elections – has no overall leader, and its parties are divided over who they could select as a suitable prime minister.

Moment

Thuram’s comments emerged nearly a month after he condemned what he called the sad reality of the political situation in France.

Just after President Emmanuel Macron called the election, the France skipper Kylian Mbappé urged young people to go out and vote to prevent extremes from claiming power.

Politicians from across the political spectrum have embraced or criticised the stances of the France stars.

Rassemblement national leader Marine Le Pen hit out at Mbappé during an interview with CNN France just before the second vote.

“Kylian Mbappé is an excellent footballer,” she said. “But this trend among athletes, singers or artists of telling the French how they should vote … the French are fed up with moral lessons and voting instructions.”

Should France beat Spain at the Allianz Arena, they will play either England or the Netherlands in the final on Sunday.

French rugby chiefs suspend World Cup star Jaminet after racist remark in video

France full-back Melvyn Jaminet was on Monday facing an end to his international career after a video surfaced of him making a racist remark. 

Jaminet, 25, who plays for RC Toulon in southern France, featured as a late substitute on Saturday in France’s 28-13 victory over Argentina at the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas.

A few hours after the game in Mendoza, a video was published in which Jaminet can be heard saying: “The first Arab I meet on the street, I’m going to head butt him.”

The video was picked up by La France insoumise politician Sébastien Delogu and widely shared on social media.

In a statement posted on X, the French rugby federation (FFR) condemned the comments as unacceptable and contrary to the fundamental values of the sport.

It said Jaminet would be sidelined with immediate effect and would leave the French squad’s tour of South America.

Jaminet began his professional career at the French Pro 2 club Perpignan in 2019. By the time he left for thye top flight outfit Toulouse in 2022, he had already broken into the France team.

He transferred to Toulon for the start of the 2023 campaign during which he was part of the France World Cup squad which lost in the quarter-finals to South Africa.

Federation chiefs said they would launch an investigation into the incident.

“Discriminatory behaviour of any kind has no place in French rugby,” the FFR tatement added.

Jaminet, who has played 20 times for his country, issued an apology on social media shortly after his suspension was announced.

“I understand that this has hurt and offended many people, and I want to make it clear that these remarks do not reflect my values or those of the French rugby team.

“Racism in any form is unacceptable and goes against everything I believe in,” he wrote on Instagram.

Toulon also published a statement on social media to condemn the comments.


Wimbledon 2024

French duo Fils and Mpetshi Perricard lose in last-16 at Wimbledon

French duo Arthur Fils and Giovanni Mpetshi Perricard lost to Alex De Minaur and Lorenzo Musetti respectively on Monday to end French interests in the men’s singles draw at Wimbledon.

Fils, 20, went down 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 3-6  to the ninth seed from Australia while Musetti outwitted Mpetshi Perricard 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 in two hours and three minutes.

“I’ve been dreaming of this moment since I was a child,” said 22-year-old Musetti who reached the last eight for the first time at one of the four Grand Slam tournaments.

“I’ve always had a beautiful family who have always supported me in the pursuit of my dream,” added the 25th seed.

During the French Open in Paris last month, Musetti lost a tumultuous match in the third round against the defending champion Novak Djokovic.

And he was initially out of sorts against Mpetshi Perricard who had dispatched the 20th seed Sebastian Korda in the first round after entering the main draw as a lucky loser.

He more than rode his good fortune in that encounter against the American. He served 51 aces during his surge to the second round and there were a further 54 daces during the matches against Yoshihito Nishioka from Japan and the Finn Emil Ruusuvuori.

But in the fourth round at a Grand Slam tournament for the first time, 21-year-old Mpetshi Perricard appeared too hasty in the baseline exchanges. 

Musetti, renowned for his flamboyant shot-making, showed greater calm and maturity to restore parity and eventually take control of the match.

Run

De Minaur entered his tie against Fils seeking revenge for a defeat on the clay courts at the Barcelona Open in April.

The 25-year-old Australian was a break up in the third set against a man playing in the last-16 at a major for the first time.

Seemingly poised for a straightforward victory, De Minaur allowed Fils to claim four consecutive games to snatch the set.

However, De Minaur, who also reached the last eight at the French Open, reimposed his authority in the fourth.

“I made it a lot harder than I should have but am happy to get through,” he said. “It was a great job mentally to get through it.”


Paris Olympics 2024

Organiser of Paris Olympics keeps focus on Games, not politics

The chief organiser of the Paris Olympics says he is focused on preparing for the Games later this month rather than the political turmoil gripping France.

Tony Estanguet, president of the committee organising the Olympics and Paralympics, was asked whether the stated values of Paris 2024 and its motto “Games Wide Open” were consistent with the agenda of the far-right National Rally (RN) party, which topped snap parliamentary polls at the weekend.

“I want us to respect this major democratic moment and we need to stay in our place so that French people can enjoy these Games which they can’t wait to see,” he told reporters during a visit to the Olympic village earlier this week.

‘Bring people together’

Estanguet stressed that the aim of the Olympics was to “bring people together”.

The Games are intended to “demonstrate the audacity and the best of what our country has to offer the world […] and to make people proud of what the country is capable of organising. There’s also a desire to bring French people together,” he said.

“We are focused on that,” he added.

The anti-immigraton RN came top in the first round of voting for a new parliament on Sunday, with a decisive second round set to take place next Sunday.

  • Results from first round of France’s snap elections mapped out
  • The three-way factor that makes France’s election results so unusual

A new left-wing alliance finished second, with President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist allies trailing in third.

Macron’s unexpected decision to call early elections is widely seen as having backfired, with the political uncertainty risking overshadowing the Paris Games.

(with AFP)


Photography

Arles photo festival defiantly celebrates world’s diversity

One of the world’s most renowned photo festivals returns to the French town of Arles this summer with an ode to diversity.

The Rencontres d’Arles festival, which runs until 29 September, is spread across 27 venues in the ancient cobbled streets of the former Roman town in Provence.

Now in its 55th year, the event has chosen the theme “Beneath the Surface”, seeking to delve into diversity without the usual caricatures around minorities.

The star exhibition is a world-first retrospective for US portrait artist Mary Ellen Mark (1940-2015), who worked for magazines including Life and Rolling Stone.

One of her most celebrated images features an Icelandic child resting on the neck of a horse, the pose focusing attention away from the boy’s disability.

Mark “devoted a lot of time and attention to her protagonists, in a few cases returning to photograph them again and again over the course of many years, forging close relationships with many”, said co-curator Sophia Greiff.

“What I’m trying to do is make photographs that are universally understood… that cross cultural lines,” Mark once said.

Emphasis on humanity

Elsewhere at the festival, Spanish photographer Cristina de Middel presents documentary and dreamlike work about migrants travelling from Mexico to the US.

She ignores the usual tropes around migration, presenting the crossing as a heroic epic of courageous men and women heading towards a new life.

By mixing documentary images with staged and poetic photos, “it gives each person back their personality and restores a level of humanity in their representation”, said festival director Christoph Wiesner.

He said the message was particularly vital given the rise of the far right in France, which is currently leading in legislative elections.

“Just because the situation is complex, we cannot just give up,” said Wiesner, highlighting the festival’s regular work on issues around feminism and anti-racism, including presentations in local schools.

  • France’s Avignon festival opens with calls to block far right and save culture
  • South Africa’s art world, a key force in the fight against apartheid

‘Everyday baroque’

Other exhibitions this year include I’m So Happy You’re Here, featuring the work of 20 Japanese women photographers.

Another invites visitors into the “baroque of everyday life” in the Indian state of Punjab, with shots of eccentric roof sculptures that locals have brought back after working abroad, including footballs, tanks, planes and lions.

French artist Sophie Calle presents her images alongside responses from blind people about their understanding of visual beauty.

“Green is beautiful, because every time I like something I’m told it’s green,” reads one caption, alongside a shot of vivid grass.

(with AFP)


Culture

Parisian drag cabaret Chez Michou to close its doors after 68 years

Paris’s drag cabaret Chez Michou has announced it is closing for financial reasons, bringing an end to a fixture of the French capital’s nightlife.

After 68 years in the burlesque business, Sunday’s performance will be the last, the managers of the cabaret Chez Michou wrote on Facebook last week.

A liquidator will be appointed from 16 July 2024, “with the task of finding a buyer for our establishment”, they added.

Drag pioneer

Run by Paris nightlife icon Michou until his death in 2020, the trailblazing cabaret brought drag entertainment to France in the mid-1950s when it put on shows featuring men caricaturing women personalities of the time.

Despite being the capital’s smallest cabaret, the tiny venue in the northern Montmartre district vied for attention with the larger, more conventional Moulin Rouge, Lido and Crazy Horse.

Known for his distinctive chunky glasses and all-blue outfits, Michou – real name Michel Catty – and his “Michettes” inspired a hit 1978 French comedy film, La Cage aux Folles.

It was later remade in Hollywood as The Birdcage starring Robin Williams.

  • Queens and Kings of Drag: more than just a pretty story
  • Podcast: The Montmartre cabaret that was a crucible of modern art

Financial difficulties

But the cabaret’s future was already in doubt prior before its closure was announced.

On Saturday, Michou’s niece Catherine Catty-Jacquart said she did not know if the cabaret would reopen in September.

“We’re living from day to day,” she said, with the venue seeing a lack of bookings in July despite the Olympic Games.

Catty-Jacquart blamed strikes, protests, parking issues and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic for the venue’s financial difficulties.

Chez Michou employed 23 people, including the performers and staff in the dining room, kitchens and reception.

Drag shows have experienced a revival in recent years, driven by venues such as nearby Madame Arthur that have been able to attract a young, hip audience, which did not help Chez Michou.

(with AFP)


Senegal – Mining

Senegal sets out to secure fairer partnerships in mining sector

Senegal’s recently elected president, Bassirou Dioumaye Faye, has promised to renegotiate mining, gas and oil contracts signed with foreign companies. At a top-level summit in Paris this week, his mining minister set out how the new government plans to break away from old practices and alliances.

Speaking at this year’s Mining on Top Africa (Mota) conference, Birame Souleye Diop, Senegal’s minister of energy and mines, said his government intends to review the contracts of mining companies that do not fulfil their environmental obligations.

“A few days ago, I visited Kedougou,” Diop said, referring to the region that houses most of Senegal’s industrial and artisanal gold mines.

Located 700 km east of the capital, Dakar, and close to the Malian border, it is one of the country’s poorest regions. It is also subject to widespread contamination.

“The water of Falame river is totally polluted, animals are dying, children are dying, forests have been decimated,” Diop said.

“This because of poisoning by cyanide and mercury used for gold mining. This is not fair.” 

Beyond European investment

The environmental degradation in Kedougou has been documented for years now. According to the Institute for Security Studies, 3.9 tonnes of mercury is used in the region every year, creating health risks for miners and residents alike.

Immediately after taking office in April, President Faye ordered an audit of Senegal’s oil, gas and mining sectors.

“Our partners in the extractive industries are obliged to respect all the clauses of the contracts and we, as a state, have the responsibility to intervene and restore public order,” Diop told the mining companies, government leaders and experts attending the Mota conference on 3 and 4 July.

The annual meeting aims to foster partnerships between Europe and Africa.

But the Senegalese minister told the delegates in Paris that he did not intend to limit the search for potential investors to Europe only.

“We need to find what’s best for us. And, if it is in my country’s interest to partner with Saudi Arabia, I’ll go there,” he said.

  • Senegal’s new leader calls for a rethink of the country’s relationship with the EU
  • First ever Saudi-Africa summit welcomes countries shunned by West

Give and take

Local communities must also be able to benefit from the exploitation of their land, Diop insisted, saying that a percentage of profits should be poured back into projects to benefit residents.

“It is not enough just to give jobs to the local population. We need to focus where the need is. There is no use for a mining company to build a hospital when it’s schools which are needed,” said Diop.

He added that, in the past, Senegal would simply accept what the companies investing in the country were willing to give to the local population. This is no longer the case, he said.

Diop also insisted that foreign companies should share technology with Senegal rather than simply extracting its primary materials.

“They take our resources, they transform them and they sell them back to us,” he told RFI.

Keeping mineral wealth in Africa

Senegal began producing oil for the first time in June, with eventual capacity estimated at more than 200,000 barrels per day.

The country is also rich in minerals such as phosphate, iron ore, zircon and gold.

Diop claims that French investors involved in exploration have a clearer picture of Senegal’s mineral reserves than the government does.

“They have the data, but they haven’t shared it with me. What kind of generosity are we talking about? Transformation also means knowing what’s in your subsoil,” he said.

African states set up the African Minerals Development Centre in 2016 to help them better reap the benefits of their mineral resources. But only a handful of countries so far have ratified its founding statute, meaning the centre hasn’t been put into full operation. 

“Before being convinced that we need Europe, I think we should at least start by talking among ourselves, Africans, first,” Diop said.


European trade

Carmakers unhappy after EU hits China with tariffs on electric vehicles

The European Union has slapped extra provisional duties of up to 38 percent on Chinese electric car imports because of “unfair” state subsidies, despite Beijing’s warnings the move would unleash a trade war. But company reps in both China and Europe are critical of the steps. 

Brussels launched an investigation last year into Chinese electric vehicle manufacturers to probe whether state subsidies were unfairly undercutting European automakers.

Since announcing the planned tariff hike last month, on top of current import duties of 10 percent, the European Commission has begun talks with Beijing to try to resolve the issue, with China threatening retaliation.

“Our investigation… concluded that the battery electric vehicles produced in China benefit from unfair subsidisation, which is causing a threat of economic injury to the EU’s own electric car makers,” the EU’s trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis said.

The move comes despite talks between Chinese and EU trade officials on 22 June, but Brussels will continue “to engage intensively with China on a mutually acceptable solution”, according to Dombrovskis.

Retaliation

Beijing has already signalled its readiness to retaliate by launching an anti-dumping probe last month into pork imports, threatening Spanish exports. Chinese media suggest Beijing will trigger further probes.

Chinese officials have also railed against probes targeting state subsidies in the green tech sector, including wind turbines and solar panels.

“It is plain for all to see who is escalating trade frictions and instigating a ‘trade war’,” a spokesperson for the Chinese commerce ministry said on 21 June.

But in a likely attempt to diffuse tensions, China’s President Xi Jinping made a congratulatory call on Thursday to incoming European Council President Antonio Costa just hours before European Commission curbs on Chinese electric cars are scheduled to take effect.

According to Chinese state media, Xi said he “attaches great importance to the development of China-EU relations” and that China “is committed to developing the China-EU comprehensive strategic partnership”.

  • Are EU tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles a sign of weakness?
  • EU struggles to come out on top in systemic rivalry with China

‘Dead end’

Meanwhile, German auto giant Volkswagen on Thursday said EU moves to impose provisional extra duties of up to 38 percent on Chinese electric car imports over subsidy concerns were “detrimental” to the European market.

“Countervailing duties are generally not suitable for strengthening the competitiveness of the European automotive industry in the long term – we reject them,” Volkswagen said in a statement.

And BMW chief Oliver Zipse said the tariff battle between the EU and China “leads to a dead end”.

“It does not strengthen the competitiveness of European manufacturers. On the contrary: it harms the business model of globally active companies,” Zipse said in a statement.

Germany’s VDA auto industry association said there was a “real risk of escalation in the trade conflict with China” if the EU pushed ahead with the tariff rises.

“Chinese countermeasures could severely hit the European economy”, especially sectors with large exports to China, the VDA said.

The industry association called on the EU to cancel the tariff increases and find a “negotiated solution” with Beijing.

(with newswires)


Gender-based violence

How technology and social media are weaponised against women even offline

Women and girls are disproportionately experiencing violence fuelled by the increasing use of technology, a new report warns, with online abuse often spilling over into physical attacks and intimidation. The situation is especially worrying in the global south, where laws to protect women are often lacking.

For women worldwide, the internet era is a “blessing and a curse”.

That’s according to Dutch sexual health organisation Rutgers, which says that technology and online platforms are increasingly used as weapons to “tyrannise” women and other vulnerable groups “as part of an invasive 24/7 culture infiltrating workplaces, schools and homes”.

Its research – based on interviews with people in Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Rwanda, South Africa and Uganda – found widespread links between online violence and the offline world.

Online abuse acts as a springboard for offline violence including sexual harassment, stalking and intimate partner violence, the report says.

In one case described in South Africa, a girl was bullied on and off social media before being beaten. Classmates filmed her and shared the video online, where it was widely viewed, and shortly afterwards the victim killed herself. 

Meanwhile in Morocco, a civil society worker recounted that former partners sometimes use intimate pictures or videos for revenge, to get women to give up custody or alimony or to pressure them to hand over assets.

Activists under threat

Activists and women in the public eye are also targeted, in some cases withdrawing from professional life altogether to escape the abuse.

Moroccan activist Ghizlane Mamouni, founder of Kif Mama Kif Baba, an association that campaigns against gender-based violence and discrimination, has experienced the problem firsthand.

“Recently, I myself and other colleagues – fellow women activists or women perceived as activists – have been victims and targeted by online death threats and various attacks on social networks,” she told RFI.

Mamouni is among the campaigners pushing for a reform of Morocco’s laws, which she argues fail to protect women and girls.

The country is currently experiencing an “historic moment”, she said, with reforms promised of both the penal and family codes. Governing marriage, divorce and family life as well as crimes affecting women, they have historically privileged the rights of men.

“We know that these two texts contain enormous legal violence against women and a glaring lack of protection against gender-based violence, particularly that which is facilitated by technology,” Mamouni said.

  • Women’s right to travel is being tightly controlled in North Africa, Middle East

Victims prosecuted

Uganda is one of the few African countries that actually has a law against such violence.

But victims who report it sometimes find themselves facing investigation and even prosecution if they fall foul of other laws criminalising pornography, premarital sex or sexual orientation, the report found.

“Laws that are seemingly there to protect victims actually do the opposite,” said Abishiag Wabwire of Fida Uganda, an association of women lawyers that provides legal aid.

While LGBTQ+ people face a higher threat of online and offline abuse, for instance, Uganda’s harsh laws against homosexuality mean survivors who come forward risk criminal charges themselves.

The report also pointed to cases where victims of “revenge porn” have been charged alongside the perpetrator under the Anti-Pornography Act.

“Patriarchal standards and the cyber law that should protect victims are instead being evoked to oppress them and upholding patriarchal standards,” Wabwire told Rutgers.

  • LGBTQ+ gains thwarted by enduring discrimination and violence

Overlooked danger

While victims are predominantly women and girls, boys and men can also be affected, the report says – including male friends or relatives of women targeted.

Rutgers also stresses that abuse doesn’t just take place via computers and smartphones, but can involve GPS tracking devices, drones or recording devices.

Despite posing a growing threat, gender-based violence facilitated by technology remains largely overlooked and underestimated by police and policymakers, Rutgers warns.

“Successive generations of women, girls, and vulnerable groups suffer new, brutal forms of violence – many of which go under the radar – with little protection from the police or justice systems,” it said.

“Such violence has a chilling effect on women and girls’ participation in civic and political spaces on and offline, threatening progress towards gender equality and democratic participation.”


French literature

French publishers embrace romance and seduce new readers

Romance novels have long been looked down on for their undemanding language, basic story tropes and of course, sex scenes. But French publishers are taking note as a new generation of authors, inspired by English-language bestsellers, are writing for a growing audience of young women, many of whom are choosing to read books for the first time.

The French publisher Hugo did not start out with romance novels, but today, the books represent about 60 percent of its business.

“It’s a big part of the business, it’s huge,” says Benita Rolland, who is in charge of the publisher’s international romance division.

But these are not the romance books of the past, with their euphemistically described sex scenes and covers featuring long-haired, bare-chested men.

New romance, or young adult romance, is a recent phenomenon – books most often written by self-published young women, many of whom started as readers.

Reader to writer

“I’m a big fan girl,” said CS Quill, a popular French romance writer, who still sees herself as a reader first and foremost.

She has always been attracted to love stories and started writing her own as a teenager. The work she posted on an online self-publishing platform drew notice from a publisher, which launched her career.

She insists that romance is more than sex scenes – though they do feature in her books.

“Romance is more complicated than you think,” she says, pointing to character development and plot twists that she believes adds depth.

And she pushes back against those who look down on romance as fluff.

“People still believe that this is not true literature. They’re absolutely wrong,” she says. “There is evolution of the characters, their feelings about their place in society, their issues.”

Listen to this story on the Spotlight on France podcast, episode 114:

From US to France

New romance is a genre that developed in the English-speaking world, following the success of EL James’s erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey, published in 2011.

Editor Rolland started paying attention to the genre about 10 years ago when self-published authors like Anna Todd started gaining popularity.

“When I saw what Anna Todd did in the States, I thought we should give it a try,” she explains.

Hugo bought the rights for Todd’s best-selling After series, which Todd originally wrote on the Wattpad online storytelling platform.

“And I remember the first time Anna Todd came to Paris, we went to the Fnac [bookstore] for a signing and she entered the room and the girls were crying, yelling,” recalls Roland.

“I thought I was with the Beatles! It was incredible.”

  • The Zimbabwean lawyer turned publisher who took on a ‘WhatsApp’ author

French touch

Rolland then went on a search for French authors, who were themselves starting to publish online.

Many were writing stories set in the US with American characters. CS Quill’s series Campus Drivers is about the romantic escapades of four American university students.

“One of my books is set in France, and the others are in the US, because I need to travel when I write,” she explains. “And maybe maybe because I read a lot of English books or American books.”

She says her approach is French, even if she struggles to pinpoint what that means.

“It’s maybe in the expressions we use,” she says. “It’s another culture, so we have another way to of seeing things.”

    But romance, she insists, is universal. Plus the genre has specific structures built into it.

    “There is a kind of contract when you write a romance, and as a reader you expect certain things, like a happy ending,” she explains.

    Other tropes, like the love triangle or the “enemies-to-lovers” set-up, give readers a frame.

    “There are clichés, and we know the tropes,” she says. When readers see a spark developing between sparring characters, “we know that they hate each other, and then they love each other. It’s so satisfying.”

    Romance community

    For Rolland, what makes France’s romance writers unique is that they connect with their French fans in their own language.

    “The authors really have a community. And every single day they post something online about their lives, something about their books, something about what they’re writing next,” explains Roland. “It’s not just the book, it’s almost a way of life.”

    Merveille, a 19-year-old student who joined hundreds of other young people buying new releases and chatting to authors at the romance section of the Paris Book Fair this spring, says following writers online is part of the appeal.

    “I like to see how an author works out how to write a new book,” she says.

    She likes romance novels because their stories are engaging and draw her in: “It plunges you into another universe.”

    Fans say the books offer intrigues and mysteries, along with the sex.

    “That’s part of it, but it’s not all of it,” says Romane, 20, a friend of Merveille who has accompanied her to the fair, and like her has an armful of books.

    “There are things that plunge you into a completely different universe. Some are set in fantasy world, or in the world of mythology. It makes you imagine something beyond your own life.”

    • France’s Annie Ernaux says Nobel win a ‘sign of hope’ for women writers

    Creating readers

    This, arguably, is the role of fiction – to open up a new world. But romance, with its familiar tropes and simple writing, has the added benefit of being easy to read.

    “I like escapism, and I can read these books a bit without pressure, without having to dig too deep to find the story,” says Emma, 18, who also has a stack of books in her hands.

    She admits to not reading much other than romance, which has given her new enthusiasm for books.

    “The thing I like about romance is that we have made many girls read,” says editor Rolland.

    Romance even draws young fans away from social media, she says: “This generation is reading.”

    For Romane, getting to know the authors, who are young women like herself, also validates her own tastes.

    “We are told at school that we don’t know how to read, or we are losing the French language,” she says. “And you realise there are many young writers who are starting out and are succeeding, and they know how to write.

    “It shows that young people are not as stupid as everyone thinks.”


    Listen to a report on romance novels in France on the Spotlight on France podcast, episode 114.


    Euro quarter finals

    England exorcise penalty demons to reach Euro 2024 semi-finals

    England’s history at major tournaments is littered with penalty pain but they put that tortured past behind them to beat Switzerland and reach the semi-finals of Euro 2024.

    The Three Lions were perfect from the spot with all five kicks in Duesseldorf, while goalkeeper Jordan Pickford continued his fine penalty record by saving from Manuel Akanji.

    England’s performance

    It was quite a contrast to the penalty heartbreak that Gareth Southgate’s England side went through three years ago when they lost the final of Euro 2020 on home soil.

    As a player Southgate also suffered the ignominy that comes with missing in a shoot-out more than most after his penalty was saved in the Euro 96 semi-final exit to Germany.

    • France beats Portugal 5-3 in a penalty shootout in Euro 2024 quarterfinals
    • France boss Dechamps stays upbeat despite ‘slumps’ at Euro 2024

    But the England manager’s attention to detail is helping turn the tide on their record with three wins from four shoot-outs under his watch.

    England won a World Cup shoot-out for the first time in their history against Colombia in 2018 en route to the semi-finals.

    Victory in Saturday’s quarter-final was just their second ever in a Euros in six attempts, while they also beat the Swiss in a third-place playoff at the 2019 Nations League finals.

     “We think we’ve got a good process. We’ve been in four, we’ve won three,”said Southgate.

    “Of course, we got absolutely crucified for the one we lost and that’s always going to be the case because it is outcome based.

    “We refined that process a little bit. We have more regular penalty takers in the squad now than then and more that have been in shoot-outs.”

    Point to prove

    England’s poise from the spot was all the more impressive with Harry Kane replaced in extra-time due to fatigue.

    The average age of the five takers was just over 23 and all had their own point to prove.

    Bukayo Saka, who kept England in the tournament with a stunning strike 10 minutes from time, made amends after missing the decisive penalty in the shoot-out against Italy three years ago.

    “You can fail once but you have a choice of whether or not you’re going to put yourself in that position again. I’m a guy that’s going to put myself in that position,” said Saka.

     “I believed in myself and when I saw the ball hit the net I was a very happy man.”

    Ivan Toney replaced Kane and justified his inclusion in the squad as a penalty specialist.

    Cole Palmer is yet to start a match in Germany, while Trent Alexander-Arnold was dropped after failing to take his chance in a midfield role.

    Meanwhile, Jude Bellingham had been cleared to play just a day before the Switzerland clash after a UEFA investigation into his crotch grab celebration to save England from an embarrassing exit to Slovakia in the last 16.

    Southgate has long dismissed the cliche that penalties are a lottery.

    While working as a TV pundit, he suggested after England’s exit at Euro 2012 the need for players to work with a psychologist.

    In his eight years in charge, he has employed specialists to help on the finest details, including breathing techniques and the optimal time for players to take a penalty to avoid rushing the process.

    That work has borne fruit in three wins from four compared to one win in seven prior to his appointment.

    “It’s my responsibility but on a night like tonight it’s the players that deliver,” added Southgate.

    “What I want to do is take the pressure for them. They were so composed. The whole process was really calm.”

    Southgate also reserved special praise for his goalkeeper.

    Pickford’s energetic, at times manic, demeanour does not portray an ice cold temperament.

    Yet, he is a specialist under the most intense pressure.

    The Everton stopper has saved at least one penalty in every shoot-out he has been involved in.

    Even in the one he lost at Wembley three years ago, Pickford saved two of Italy’s five penalties.

    His preparation was picked up by the cameras with a water bottle that had instructions of where to dive for every Swiss penalty taker.

    “The goalkeeper will always make at least one save, so that gives us another chance,” Southgate added.

    (With newswires)


    Entertainment

    Paris’s Moulin Rouge inaugurates new windmill sails ahead of Olympics

    Paris’s Moulin Rouge cabaret club, whose landmark windmill sails fell down in April, inaugurated its new blades on Friday, nearly a week before the Olympic torch was due to pass the venue.

    Several hundred delighted locals and tourists gathered outside the club, one of the most visited attractions in the French capital, to celebrate the four red blades, decked out in gold and red.

    “The windmill without its wings is a void for Paris, it was just sad,” said managing director Jean-Victor Clerico, who runs the family business that attracts 600,000 visitors every year.

    “The idea was to be ready for the Olympic Games,” he added, which begin on July 26.

    The Olympic torch is due to pass the venue on July 15.

    A show of French cancan, the wild traditional dance from Jacques Offenbach’s operettas of the early 19th century, was performed in front of the club on Friday by dancers in traditional petticoats and frills.

    • Blades of Paris landmark Moulin Rouge windmill collapse

    “I live in the neighbourhood and the Moulin Rouge has been part of my life for 65 years. I’m a fan of dancing, the French cancan, bubbles and good humour,” Nicole Doucin, 86, told AFP.

    “I heard of the inauguration on TikTok and I’ve always wanted to come to a show but it’s so expensive, so it’s so cool to watch this,” said Autumn Mannsfeld, 25, from California.

    The sails fell down on the night of April 25.

    The first three letters on the cabaret’s facade, M, O and U, also fell off. No one was injured in the incident.

    The club’s management has said it has ruled out any “malicious act”.

    The birthplace of the cancan and the location for Baz Luhrmann’s film “Moulin Rouge”, the club has since remained open to the public.

    (With newswires)

     


    Euro 2024

    France beats Portugal 5-3 in a penalty shootout in Euro 2024 quarterfinals

    France’s heartache in penalty shootouts is over. So is Cristiano Ronaldo’s last-ever European Championship.

    The victory ended the recent heartbreak of Kylian Mbappé and France in shootouts, having lost in them at their last two major tournaments – in the last 16 at the Euros in 2021 and in the 2022 World Cup final.

    Before that, the French were also defeated on spot kicks by Italy in the 2006 World Cup final. So it had been 26 years – since beating the Italians in the quarterfinals of the World Cup in 1998 – that Les Bleus had been victorious in a shootout.

    Mbappé didn’t even take a penalty this time, having been substituted during halftime of extra time following a couple of knocks to his broken nose that was covered by a protective mask. France coach Didier Deschamps said his captain was tired, too.

    Les Bleus didn’t need their star player, as Ousmane Dembele, Youssouf Fofana, Jules Kounde and Bradley Barcola all found the net in the shootout – held at the end housing Portugal’s vocal fans – before Theo Hernández’s coup de grâce set off jubilant scenes for the French inside the stadium in Hamburg.

    “It wasn’t easy,” France goalkeeper Mike Maignan said. “We didn’t always play that great, it was a complicated game.

    “We got to the penalty shootout and didn’t waver. We can be proud of ourselves.”

    Top corner

    Portugal substitute Joao Felix hit a post with the only miss in the shootout and Hernández showed no sign of pressure by converting the clinching kick into the top corner.

    It was a record sixth and final European Championship for the 39-year-old Ronaldo, who scored Portugal’s first penalty in the shootout and ended up consoling fellow veteran Pepe afterward as the 41-year-old defender cried on his captain’s shoulder.

    “We need to go through this moment of our loss, which is very painful,” Pepe said.

    France will play Spain in the semifinals after the latter’s extra-time win over Germany in Stuttgart earlier Friday, with Les Bleus staying on course for a third European Championship title after 1984 and 2000.

    • France boss Dechamps stays upbeat despite ‘slumps’ at Euro 2024

    (With newswires)


    Olympic history

    Paris 1924, the Olympics that took the Games ‘faster, higher, stronger’

    The 1924 Paris Olympics, which opened 100 years ago this week, marked a turning point for the event. That year saw the Olympics adopt a new motto – “Faster, Higher, Stronger” – and begin their transformation into the elite sporting spectacle they are today.

    1924 was the year the Olympics came of age.

    The modern Games were less than three decades old at the time and organisers were still in the process of defining them. 

    The official motto the International Olympic Committee (IOC) adopted that year – Citius, Altius, Fortius, Latin for “Faster, Higher, Stronger” – revealed what it hoped the event would become: a place not just to play games, but to break records.

    National committees were becoming more numerous the world over, and more selective. The first time Paris had hosted the Games, in 1900, 26 countries sent around 1,200 competitors. In 1924, more than 3,000 athletes from 44 countries descended on Paris, many of them only after proving themselves domestic champions in national try-outs. 

    Meanwhile organisers were refining the list of events. Gone was the tug-of-war, military pistol shooting and equestrian vaulting, leaving disciplines like athletics, aquatics and gymnastics to take centre stage.

    Some hangovers from another age remained: rope climbing and tandem cycling, for instance, not to mention the arts portion of the competition that saw painters, sculptors, musicians, writers and architects vie for medals.

    Nor did the local specialties that France chose to showcase take off. The French combat sports la canne and savate, which involve whacking an opponent with a cane and kicking them respectively, never made it out of the demonstration programme.

    • Paris’s role in the Olympics of the modern era

    Other innovations were more successful. 1924 saw the construction of the world’s first Olympic Village, after IOC president Pierre de Coubertin lobbied to provide athletes – previously left to their own devices – with food and lodging.

    A collection of wooden huts on the north-western outskirts of Paris, the village lacked today’s comforts but did provide bathrooms, a cafeteria, a post office, a newsagent and a hairdresser.

    Games of legend

    Paris hosted more athletes than any city before it, with countries as far-flung as Ecuador, the Philippines, Uruguay and China sending delegations for the first time (though the four Chinese sportsmen pulled out before the competition started).

    The performances drew crowds of up to 60,000 a day, unprecedented at the time. 

    The world’s media was watching too. Over 1,000 journalists got accreditation to cover the Games, including on the radio – another Olympic first. 

    The new attention made global superstars of some competitors, chief among them Johnny Weissmuller.

    Before he went on to play Tarzan in a string of Hollywood films, the charismatic 20-year-old won three gold medals for the US in swimming and a bronze in water polo – as well as charming the crowds silly by clowning around on the diving board between races.

    The 1924 Games made other Olympic heroes too. Finnish distance runner Paavo Nurmi was already an Olympic champion, but it was his achievements in Paris that propelled him into legend. 

    Preternaturally focused – he was known for running with a stopwatch in hand to keep his pace to the millisecond – Nurmi won five gold medals, two of them in the same afternoon (having come first in the 1,500 metres, he promptly set off to win the 5,000 metres less than an hour later).

    He even made it unscathed through the cross country, an event so disastrous it has never featured at an Olympics since. The race took place in a heat wave of over 40 degrees Celsius, resulting in almost half the runners passing out or giving up.

    In the sprints, two British runners stole the show: Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell, whose stories inspired the 1981 film Chariots of Fire.

    Against all expectations, they beat the American favourites to gold in the 100 metres and 400 metres respectively (Liddell, a devout Christian, famously refused to take part in the heats for the 100m dash because they were scheduled on a Sunday).

    It would be their only Olympics. Both men had retired from competition within a year, Liddell to become a theologian and Abrahams with a broken leg.

    Overlooked Olympians

    Other athletes weren’t in the same spotlight, but made history just the same. 

    DeHart Hubbard of the US became the first black sportsman to win an individual Olympic gold after coming first in the long jump, despite having badly injured his foot in the trials.

    Athletes of colour were scarce in the early years of the Games – as were women.

    Sportswomen had had to battle the prejudices of gatekeepers like de Coubertin – who believed women’s competitions were “uninteresting and unsightly” – to get an entry at all, and in 1924 they remained limited to swimming, diving, tennis and, for the first time, fencing.

    • Who was Alice Milliat, French pioneer of Women’s Olympic Games?

    Among the women who stood out in Paris were Ethel Lackie, Martha Norelius, Mariechen Wehselau, Gertrude Ederle and the other members of the US swim team, who took 10 medals and set seven new records between them.

    Notably, their win in the freestyle relay smashed the previous world record by nearly 13 seconds.

    While France’s most famous sportswoman of the time, tennis trailblazer Suzanne Lenglen, was out of action due to illness, her regular doubles partner Julie Vlasto won silver in the singles.

    Gold went to Helen Wills of the US who, at 19, was on the cusp of becoming the most dominant player since Lenglen.

    Meanwhile Ellen Osiier of Denmark won the first ever Olympic gold for women’s fencing.

    A century’s legacy

    A lot has changed since Paris last hosted the Games. Athletes have become faster, costs higher, and the world’s interest stronger.

    Sport has also got fairer. This year will see equal numbers of women and men compete for the first time in Olympic history.

    • Women athletes reach parity for first time in Olympic history

    But in other respects, the organisers of Paris 2024 are looking backwards. Like the 1924 Games, which took place largely on the city outskirts, this edition is also seeking to involve the suburbs.

    The stadium in north-western Colombes that hosted the feats of Hubbard, Liddell, Abrahams and Nurmi has been renovated for the occasion and will host the hockey this summer. 

    Meanwhile the pool on the north-east edge of Paris in which Weissmuller and Lackie won gold will be where this year’s swimmers train.


    War in Ukraine

    EU, Kyiv condemn Orban for meeting Putin

    Brussels and Kyiv hit out at Hungarian leader Viktor Orban on Friday after Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted him in Moscow for talks on the Ukraine conflict.

    Putin told Orban, Russia’s closest EU ally, that Ukraine must withdraw its troops from regions that Moscow has annexed if it wants peace.

    Orban’s visit to Moscow comes days after he made a surprise trip to Kyiv, where he urged Ukraine’s leadership to work towards a rapid ceasefire with Russia.

    But Kyiv was “not ready to drop the idea of waging war until a victorious end”, he added, calling the talks at the Kremlin a “really useful, frank conversation” on the conflict.

    EU officials, the United States and NATO blasted the Hungarian prime minister’s surprise trip.

    The visit came days after Hungary took over the EU’s rotating presidency and Putin told Orban he expected him to outline “the position of European partners” on Ukraine.

    The Ukrainian foreign ministry lambasted the meeting, stressing that the trip “was made by the Hungarian side without any agreement or coordination with Ukraine”.

    No EU mandate

    European Union leaders also lashed out at Orban over the trip.

    “Appeasement will not stop Putin,” European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen wrote on X.

    “Only unity and determination will pave the path to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine.

    EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement that Orban’s “visit to Moscow takes place, exclusively, in the framework of the bilateral relations between Hungary and Russia”.

    “Orban has not received any mandate from the EU Council to visit Moscow,” he added.

    The EU has firmly opposed Russia’s military offensive in Ukraine, imposing 14 rounds of unprecedented sanctions on Moscow.

    “That position excludes official contacts between the EU and President Putin. The Hungarian Prime Minister is thus not representing the EU in any form,” Borrell said, pointing out that “Putin has been indicted by the International Criminal Court and an arrest warrant released for his role in relation to the forced deportation of children from Ukraine to Russia.”

    • Hungary assumes EU presidency amid controversies and corruption concerns

    (With newswires)

    The Sound Kitchen

    China’s 1989 sea change

    Issued on:

    This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about Tiananmen Square. There’s “The Listener’s Corner”, Ollia Horton’s “Happy Moment”, and lots of good music. All that and the new quiz and bonus questions too, so click on the “Play” button above and enjoy! 

    Hello everyone! Welcome to The Sound Kitchen weekly podcast, published every Saturday – here on our website, or wherever you get your podcasts. You’ll hear the winner’s names announced and the week’s quiz question, along with all the other ingredients you’ve grown accustomed to: your letters and essays, “On This Day”, quirky facts and news, interviews, and great music … so be sure and listen every week.

    Erwan and I are busy cooking up special shows with your music requests, so get them in! Send your music requests to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr – tell us why you like the piece of music, too – it makes it more interesting for us all!

    The ePOP video competition is open!

    The ePOP video competition is sponsored by the RFI department “Planète Radio”, whose mission is to give a voice to the voiceless. ePOP focuses on the environment, and how climate change has affected “ordinary” people. You are to create a three-minute video about climate change, the environment, pollution – told by the people it affects.

    You do not need expensive video equipment to enter the competition. Your phone is fine. And you do not need to be a member of the RFI Clubs to enter – everyone is welcome. And by the way – the prizes are incredibly generous!

    Go to the ePOP page to read about past competitions, watch past videos, and read the regulations for your entry.  You can also write to us at thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr, and we’ll forward your mail to Planète Radio.

    The competition closes on 12 September, but you know how “time flies”, so get to work now! We expect to be bombarded with entries from the English speakers!

    Facebook: Be sure to send your photos for the RFI English Listeners Forum banner to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr

    More tech news: Did you know we have a YouTube channel? Just go to YouTube and write RFI English in the search bar, and there we are! Be sure to subscribe to see all our videos.

    Would you like to learn French? RFI is here to help you!

    Our website “Le Français facile avec RFI”  has news broadcasts in slow, simple French, as well as bi-lingual radio dramas (with real actors!) and exercises to practice what you have heard.

    Go to our website and get started! At the top of the page, click on “Test level”. According to your score, you’ll be counselled to the best-suited activities for your level.

    Do not give up! As Lidwien van Dixhoorn, the head of “Le Français facile” service told me: “Bathe your ears in the sound of the language, and eventually, you’ll get it.” She should know – Lidwien is Dutch and came to France hardly able to say “bonjour” and now she heads this key RFI department – so stick with it!

    Be sure you check out our wonderful podcasts!

    In addition to the breaking news articles on our site with in-depth analysis of current affairs in France and across the globe, we have several podcasts that will leave you hungry for more.

    There’s Paris Perspective, Spotlight on France, Spotlight on Africa, and of course, The Sound Kitchen. We have an award-winning bilingual series – an old-time radio show, with actors (!) to help you learn French, called Les voisins du 12 bis. And there is the excellent International Report, too.

    As you see, sound is still quite present in the RFI English service. Keep checking our website for updates on the latest from our staff of journalists. You never know what we’ll surprise you with!

    To listen to our podcasts from your PC, go to our website; you’ll see “Podcasts” at the top of the page. You can either listen directly or subscribe and receive them directly on your mobile phone.

    To listen to our podcasts from your mobile phone, slide through the tabs just under the lead article (the first tab is “Headline News”) until you see “Podcasts”, and choose your show. 

    Teachers take note! I save postcards and stamps from all over the world to send to you for your students. If you would like stamps and postcards for your students, just write and let me know. The address is english.service@rfi.fr  If you would like to donate stamps and postcards, feel free! Our address is listed below. 

    Another idea for your students: Br. Gerald Muller, my beloved music teacher from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, has been writing books for young adults in his retirement – and they are free! There is a volume of biographies of painters and musicians called Gentle Giants, and an excellent biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, too. They are also a good way to help you improve your English – that’s how I worked on my French, reading books that were meant for young readers – and I guarantee you, it’s a good method for improving your language skills. To get Br. Gerald’s free books, click here.

    Independent RFI English Clubs: Be sure to always include Audrey Iattoni (audrey.iattoni@rfi.fr) from our Listener Relations department in your RFI Club correspondence. Remember to copy me (thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr) when you write to her so that I know what is going on, too. NB: You do not need to send her your quiz answers! Email overload!

    We have a new RFI Listeners Club member to welcome: Tahmidul Alam Orin from Dhaka, Bangladesh.

    Welcome,Tahmidul! So glad you have joined us!

    You too can be a member of the RFI Listeners Club – just write to me at english.service@rfi.fr and tell me you want to join, and I’ll send you a membership number. It’s that easy. When you win a Sound Kitchen quiz as an RFI Listeners Club member, you’ll receive a premium prize.

    This week’s quiz: On 8 June, I asked you a question about an article we had written earlier that week about the 35th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing, China. On 4 June 1989, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army broke up protests by pro-democracy students in the Square. According to various reports, anywhere from hundreds to thousands of students were killed.

    One of the student leaders, Wang Dan, after two periods of imprisonment in China, was allowed to emigrate to the US. He currently lives in San Francisco, where he leads the Dialogue China think tank.

    He was in Paris recently and came to RFI for an interview, which you read in our article “Tiananmen Square at 35: top Chinese dissident looks back”.

    In the interview, we asked Wang Dan: “How did the 4th of June 1989 change China?”  What does he answer? That was your question.

    The answer is, as Wang Dan explained: “June 4th is a turning point in China’s contemporary history. There are two Chinas: the China of before 1989 and the China of after. The main difference is [that] before 1989, the state and the society cooperated. That’s why we took to the streets: we as, a representative society, go to the street and ask to cooperate with the government to promote democracy. There’s no difference between “us”. We think we are all “us”. We all take responsibility for this country.

    But after 1989, many Chinese people gave up on this idea. “You” are the government. “We” are the normal Chinese people. There’s no more “us”. It’s just “you” and “me”. After 1989, the Chinese people gave up the responsibility for the country’s future because they thought that they could not do anything and that it is the government’s responsibility to change China, not the people’s.” 

    In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question: “What is the ideal human relationship?” It was suggested by Debashis Gope from West Bengal, India.

    Do you have a bonus question idea? Send it to us!

    The winners are: RFI Listeners Club member Karuna Kanta Pal from West Bengal, India. Congratulations, Karuna.   

    Also on the list of lucky winners this week are Nafisa Khatun, the president of the RFI Mahila Shrota Sangha Club in West Bengal, India, and RFI Listeners Club member Kashif Khalil from Faisalabad, Pakistan.   

    Last but not least, there are RFI English listeners John Yemi Sanday Turay from Freetown, Sierra Leone, and Rafiq Khondaker, the president of the Source of Knowledge Club in Naogaon, Bangladesh.

    Here’s the music you heard on this week’s program: “Take the A Train” by Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington, performed by Duke Ellington and his orchestra; “El Bueno y El Malo” composed by and performed by the brothers Estevan and Alejandro Gutiérrez (Hermanos Gutiérrez); “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer; “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, and The Chairman Dances (Foxtrot for Orchestra) by John Adams, performed by Edo de Waart and the San Fransisco Symphony. 

    Do you have a music request? Send it to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr

    This week’s question … you must listen to the show to participate. After you’ve listened to the show, re-read Jessica Phelan’s article: “The three-way factor that makes France’s election results so unusual”, which will help you with the answer.

    You have until 19 August to enter this week’s quiz. The winners will be announced on the 24 August podcast. When you enter be sure to send your postal address with your answer, and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

    Send your answers to:

    english.service@rfi.fr

    or

    Susan Owensby

    RFI – The Sound Kitchen

    80, rue Camille Desmoulins

    92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux

    France

    or

    By text … You can also send your quiz answers to The Sound Kitchen mobile phone. Dial your country’s international access code, or “ + ”, then  33 6 31 12 96 82. Don’t forget to include your mailing address in your text – and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

    To find out how you can win a special Sound Kitchen prize, click here.

    To find out how you can become a member of the RFI Listeners Club, or form your own official RFI Club, click here. 

    International report

    Does the UK’s change of leaders spell better relations with the EU?

    Issued on:

    The EU on Friday congratulated Keir Starmer on Labour’s election win in Britain, with European Council President Charles Michel calling it “historic”. But Labour’s landslide victory doesn’t mean that London will turn back the clock on Brexit.

    Keir Starmer has pledged to “make Brexit work” and seek “an ambitious” security pact with the the European Union.

    But contrary to the hopes of many in the UK who may have hoped that London would return to the EU mainland fold, Labour is careful not to offend its pro-Brexit constituencies.

    Over the years, especially in the north of England, many voters shifted to the pro-Brexit ideas of the Conservative party, afraid that EU immigrants would take away their jobs.

    RFI talks to political scientist John Barry, of Queens University in Belfast, about how he thinks Brexit affected the UK economy, and if London will ever rejoin the common market.

    “Brexit has framed UK politics since 2016.”

    06:07

    INTERVIEW: John Barry, political scientist with Queens University in Belfast

    This interview was carried out online.

    Spotlight on France

    Podcast: France revives hemp farming, New Romance, Paris’s 1924 Olympics

    Issued on:

    France is reviving its industrial farming of hemp – ‘green gold’ – in the search for more sustainable, energy-saving building materials. French publishers are flocking to romance, as a new generation of authors are writing for a new and growing audience of young women readers. And when Paris hosted the 1924 Olympics 100 years ago.

    Hemp farming nearly died out in France in the 1970s but is making a comeback in textiles and the construction industry. Fast-growing, pesticide-free, and a good absorber of CO2, the plant is proving to be an ally in the fight against climate change. Franck Barbier, head of Interchanvre, talks about cannabis sativus’s bright future on a tour of the Planète Chanvre mill in Aulnoy. And Jean-Michel Morer, mayor of Trilport, shows us how his town is using hemp in buildings as part of its commitment to sustainability and the circular economy. (Listen @3’10”)

    Romance literature has long been looked down on for its undemanding language, basic story tropes and steamy sex scenes. But French publishers are taking note as a new generation of authors, inspired by English-language best-sellers, are writing for a growing audience of young women, many of whom are newcomers to books. Publisher Benita Rolland, of Hugo publishing, talks about developing the genre for the French market, and CS Quill, who started out as a reader before becoming a popular romance author, talks about connecting with her fans. (Listen @21’50”)

    As Paris prepares to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, a look back on the last time the city held the Games in 1924. Those Olympics were a smaller, more eclectic and more masculine event, which nonetheless marked a turning point and brought the Games closer to what they are today. (Listen @14’30”)

    Episode mixed by Cecile Pompéani. 

    Spotlight on France is a podcast from Radio France International. Find us on rfienglish.com, Apple podcasts (link here), Spotify (link here) or your favourite podcast app (pod.link/1573769878).

    International report

    Crackdown on organised crime gifts Istanbul police with luxury supercars

    Issued on:

    Istanbul police now have some of the world’s most expensive sports cars – spoils of seized assets in a crackdown on international organised crime. It’s part of Ankara’s efforts to escape international scrutiny over money laundering as it seeks global investment.

    In the heart of Istanbul, onlookers gather around taking selfies of the police’s latest addition to its carpool: a Ferrari. City police now boast some of the world’s flashiest supercars, not only Ferraris but also Bentleys and Lexuses.

    They’re the pickings of a nationwide crackdown on international organised crime involving narcotics smuggling and money laundering.

    Turkey‘s unique geography straddling Europe and Asia makes it an ideal centre for international crime.

    “Turkey is in between the continents. So once you want to transfer a commodity which is illegal, it may be drugs, etc, you must have a step here,” says Murat Aslan of the Foundation for Political, Economic, and Social Research, a think tank in Ankara.

    Gang links

    “Most criminal gangs in Europe or the United States or South America have links to the ones here in Turkey – and that is why police have started operations, especially focusing on the ones who have warrants or arrest warrants by Interpol.

    “It’s a process, and Turkey is currently in the middle of it.”

    Interior Ministry videos show heavily armed police breaking down doors in the middle of the night at luxury addresses usually associated with Istanbul’s high society.

    Vast quantities of cash and guns are invariably recovered. Among those arrested are some of the world’s most wanted criminals from Europe, Asia, and the United States, most connected to the illicit drugs trade, underlining Turkey’s status as a hub for the European narcotics trade.

    Last week, Turkish police, with their Spanish and French counterparts, broke up a European Central American drug cartel, resulting in dozens of arrests.

    “According to Interpol and the Turkish police’s narcotics department, Turkey has become a transshipment hub for Europe and the Middle East,” says Atilla Yesilada, a Turkey analyst for Global Source Partners, another think tank.

    “There are huge amounts of money floating around here.”

    • Turkey set on rebuilding bridges with China to improve trade

    Crime hub

    Yesilada says Turkey became a hub for international crime not only because of its geography but also because of the government’s recent efforts to attract foreign currency to prop up the Turkish lira with a wealth amnesty.

    “Look at our wealth amnesty, bring cash, bring diamonds, we don’t really care. Just check it at the border or deposit it in a bank, and we’ll never ask questions. This never-ask-questions part is, of course, completely in violation of the spirit of the global anti-money laundering legislation,” Yesilada says.

    Turkish Interior Minister Ali Yerlikaya, at a recent press conference on the crackdown, announced that over 1,000 arrests – including 50 people wanted by Interpol – had been made this year, along with over 3 billion dollars in seized assets.

    Yerlikaya says he’s committed to ending Turkey’s reputation as a haven for drug kingpins.

    “Thirty-eight mafia-type organised crime gangs, seven of which were international and 31 of which were local, were broken up,” Yerlikaya says.

    “We consider drugs a global disaster in the Turkish century. Our main goal in the fight against drugs is to ensure that Turkey becomes an inaccessible and Prohibited Zone for drugs. We consider drug crime equivalent to terrorism.”

    • Turkey cuts trade with Israel but seeks role in resolving Gaza conflict

    Turkey grey-listed

    The crackdown follows the international anti-money laundering organisation the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) putting Turkey on its grey list of countries failing to combat global money laundering.

    “Commercial banks and global funds are reluctant to do business with a country that’s still on the grey list because, you know, too many sanctions,” warns Yesilada.

    Turkey‘s crackdown on organised crime and tightening of its financial controls are part of efforts to remove itself from the grey list and escape its damaging economic impact.

    • Interpol fights crime and controversial image, 100 years on

    “If we remain on the FATF grey list again, from the top of my head, 20 percent of the institutions that would otherwise be interested in investing in Turkey probably won’t be able to do so because of compliance fears,” Yesilada says.

    “It is going to be a significant concern when this extensive due diligence work is undertaken, whether to make a particular investment in Turkey.”

    The Turkish government sees increasing international investment as key to solving the country’s economic woes, which means the raids on wanted international crime figures seem set to continue, along with confiscating their valuable assets.

    For the Istanbul police, the supply of fancy cars looks set to continue.

    The Sound Kitchen

    A nail-biting tennis match

    Issued on:

    This week on The Sound Kitchen you’ll hear the answer to the question about the Roland Garros French Open Tennis Tournament. There’s “On This Day”, “The Listener’s Corner” with Paul Myers, and lots of good music. All that and the new quiz and bonus questions too, so click on the “Play” button above and enjoy! 

    Hello everyone! Welcome to The Sound Kitchen weekly podcast, published every Saturday – here on our website, or wherever you get your podcasts. You’ll hear the winner’s names announced and the week’s quiz question, along with all the other ingredients you’ve grown accustomed to: your letters and essays, “On This Day”, quirky facts and news, interviews, and great music … so be sure and listen every week.

    Erwan and I are busy cooking up special shows with your music requests, so get them in! Send your music requests to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr – tell us why you like the piece of music, too – it makes it more interesting for us all!

    The ePOP video competition is open!

    The ePOP video competition is sponsored by the RFI department “Planète Radio”, whose mission is to give a voice to the voiceless. ePOP focuses on the environment, and how climate change has affected “ordinary” people. You are to create a three-minute video about climate change, the environment, pollution – told by the people it affects.

    You do not need expensive video equipment to enter the competition. Your phone is fine. And you do not need to be a member of the RFI Clubs to enter – everyone is welcome. And by the way – the prizes are incredibly generous!

    Go to the ePOP page to read about past competitions, watch past videos, and read the regulations for your entry.  You can also write to us at thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr, and we’ll forward your mail to Planète Radio.

    The competition closes on 12 September, but you know how “time flies”, so get to work now! We expect to be bombarded with entries from the English speakers!

    Facebook: Be sure to send your photos for the RFI English Listeners Forum banner to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr

    More tech news: Did you know we have a YouTube channel? Just go to YouTube and write RFI English in the search bar, and there we are! Be sure to subscribe to see all our videos.

    Would you like to learn French? RFI is here to help you!

    Our website “Le Français facile avec RFI”  has news broadcasts in slow, simple French, as well as bi-lingual radio dramas (with real actors!) and exercises to practice what you have heard.

    Go to our website and get started! At the top of the page, click on “Test level”. According to your score, you’ll be counselled to the best-suited activities for your level.

    Do not give up! As Lidwien van Dixhoorn, the head of “Le Français facile” service told me: “Bathe your ears in the sound of the language, and eventually, you’ll get it.” She should know – Lidwien is Dutch and came to France hardly able to say “bonjour” and now she heads this key RFI department – so stick with it!

    Be sure you check out our wonderful podcasts!

    In addition to the breaking news articles on our site with in-depth analysis of current affairs in France and across the globe, we have several podcasts that will leave you hungry for more.

    There’s Paris Perspective, Spotlight on France, Spotlight on Africa, and of course, The Sound Kitchen. We have an award-winning bilingual series – an old-time radio show, with actors (!) to help you learn French, called Les voisins du 12 bis. And there is the excellent International Report, too.

    As you see, sound is still quite present in the RFI English service. Keep checking our website for updates on the latest from our staff of journalists. You never know what we’ll surprise you with!

    To listen to our podcasts from your PC, go to our website; you’ll see “Podcasts” at the top of the page. You can either listen directly or subscribe and receive them directly on your mobile phone.

    To listen to our podcasts from your mobile phone, slide through the tabs just under the lead article (the first tab is “Headline News”) until you see “Podcasts”, and choose your show. 

    Teachers take note! I save postcards and stamps from all over the world to send to you for your students. If you would like stamps and postcards for your students, just write and let me know. The address is english.service@rfi.fr  If you would like to donate stamps and postcards, feel free! Our address is listed below. 

    Another idea for your students: Br. Gerald Muller, my beloved music teacher from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, has been writing books for young adults in his retirement – and they are free! There is a volume of biographies of painters and musicians called Gentle Giants, and an excellent biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, too. They are also a good way to help you improve your English – that’s how I worked on my French, reading books that were meant for young readers – and I guarantee you, it’s a good method for improving your language skills. To get Br. Gerald’s free books, click here.

    Independent RFI English Clubs: Be sure to always include Audrey Iattoni (audrey.iattoni@rfi.fr) from our Listener Relations department in your RFI Club correspondence. Remember to copy me (thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr) when you write to her so that I know what is going on, too. NB: You do not need to send her your quiz answers! Email overload!

    We have a new RFI Listeners Club member to welcome: Tahmidul Alam Orin from Dhaka, Bangladesh.

    Welcome,Tahmidul! So glad you have joined us!

    You too can be a member of the RFI Listeners Club – just write to me at english.service@rfi.fr and tell me you want to join, and I’ll send you a membership number. It’s that easy. When you win a Sound Kitchen quiz as an RFI Listeners Club member, you’ll receive a premium prize.

    This week’s quiz: On 1 June, the Roland Garros French Open International Tennis Tournament was in full swing, and our very own Paul Myers was there to keep you in the know.

    Earlier that week, there was a nail-biting match between Alexander Zverev and Rafael Nadal, the 14-time winner of the Roland Garros French Open tennis tournament. You were to re-read Paul’s article “Zverev sees off Nadal to advance to second round at French Open”, and send in the answer to this question: What was the final score in the match between Zverev and Nadal?

    The answer is: 6-3, 7-6, 6-3 

    In addition to the quiz question, there was the bonus question: “How do you stay cool?”

    Do you have a bonus question idea? Send it to us!

    The winners are: RFI Listeners Club member Sahadot Hossain from Kishoreganj, Bangladesh, who is also the winner of this week’s bonus question. Congratulations, Sahadot!

    Also on the list of lucky winners this week are Ras Franz Manko Ngogo, the president of the Kemogemba RFI Club in Tarime, Mara, Tanzania, and RFI Listeners Club members Radhakrishna Pillai from Kerala State, India, as well as Ajharul Islam Tamim from Kishorganj, Bangladesh.  

    Last but not least, there’s RFI English listener Sadman Al Shihab from Naogaon, also in Bangladesh.

    Here’s the music you heard on this week’s program: “Liber Tango” by Astor Piazzolla, performed by Layers; the scherzo from Midsummer Night’s Dream by Felix Mendelssohn, performed by Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra; “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov; “The Cakewalk” from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy, performed by the composer, and “Southern Freez” by Andy Stennett, John Rocca, and Peter Maas, performed by Freez.

    Do you have a music request? Send it to thesoundkitchen@rfi.fr

    This week’s question … you must listen to the show to participate. After you’ve listened to the show, listen to Sarah Elzas’ report on the latest Spotlight on France podcast, and consult her article “French far-right party to fund policies by cutting aid to foreigners”, which will help you with the answer.

    You have until 12 August to enter this week’s quiz. The winners will be announced on the 17 August podcast. When you enter be sure to send your postal address with your answer, and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

    Send your answers to:

    english.service@rfi.fr

    or

    Susan Owensby

    RFI – The Sound Kitchen

    80, rue Camille Desmoulins

    92130 Issy-les-Moulineaux

    France

    or

    By text … You can also send your quiz answers to The Sound Kitchen mobile phone. Dial your country’s international access code, or “ + ”, then  33 6 31 12 96 82. Don’t forget to include your mailing address in your text – and if you have one, your RFI Listeners Club membership number.

    To find out how you can win a special Sound Kitchen prize, click here.

    To find out how you can become a member of the RFI Listeners Club, or form your own official RFI Club, click here. 

    Spotlight on Africa

    African displacements and the search for refuge, in life and art

    Issued on:

    Displacement takes many forms, from refugees forced into exile to returnees who find themselves strangers in what was once home. In this episode, we speak to aid workers about the very different experiences of refugees in Sudan and Mauritania, and hear from an artist who draws inspiration from his own migrations between France, Algeria and beyond.

    According to the UN’s refugee agency, UNHCR, more than 120 million people are forcibly displaced today by war, violence and persecution.

    It is an unprecedented number, one the organisation calls a “terrible indictment on the state of the world”.

    Sudan alone has 9.9 million internally displaced people, as well as South Sudanese refugees who escaped civil war and now find themselves caught up in conflict once again. Aaron Adkins of the International Organisation for Migration discusses the complex needs of people repeatedly forced to flee.

    Meanwhile Maribeth Black from the UN’s World Food Programme describes how Mauritania has successfully managed to integrate refugees, providing an example for other countries in Africa and beyond.

    Finally, we head to the Mo.Co museum of modern art in Montpellier, in the south of France, to meet the French-Algerian artist Kader Attia at his new exhibition, “Descent into Paradise”.

    He is inspired by his own story of migration, multiple identities, and his main theme: how to repair past traumas through art.


    Episode mixed by Nicolas Doreau.

    Spotlight on Africa is a podcast from Radio France Internationale. 


    Sponsored content

    Presented by

    The editorial team did not contribute to this article in any way.

    Madhya Pradesh: the Heart of beautiful India

    From 20 to 22 September 2022, the IFTM trade show in Paris, connected thousands of tourism professionals across the world. Sheo Shekhar Shukla, director of Madhya Pradesh’s tourism board, talked about the significance of sustainable tourism.

    Madhya Pradesh is often referred to as the Heart of India. Located right in the middle of the country, the Indian region shows everything India has to offer through its abundant diversity. The IFTM trade show, which took place in Paris at the end of September, presented the perfect opportunity for travel enthusiasts to discover the region.

    Sheo Shekhar Shukla, Managing Director of Madhya Pradesh’s tourism board, sat down to explain his approach to sustainable tourism.

    “Post-covid the whole world has known a shift in their approach when it comes to tourism. And all those discerning travelers want to have different kinds of experiences: something offbeat, something new, something which has not been explored before.”

    Through its UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Shukla wants to showcase the deep history Madhya Pradesh has to offer.

    “UNESCO is very actively supporting us and three of our sites are already World Heritage Sites. Sanchi is a very famous buddhist spiritual destination, Bhimbetka is a place where prehistoric rock shelters are still preserved, and Khajuraho is home to thousand year old temples with magnificent architecture.”

    All in all, Shukla believes that there’s only one way forward for the industry: “Travelers must take sustainable tourism as a paradigm in order to take tourism to the next level.”

    In partnership with Madhya Pradesh’s tourism board.


    Sponsored content

    Presented by

    The editorial team did not contribute to this article in any way.

    Exploring Malaysia’s natural and cultural diversity

    The IFTM trade show took place from 20 to 22 September 2022, in Paris, and gathered thousands of travel professionals from all over the world. In an interview, Libra Hanif, director of Tourism Malaysia discussed the importance of sustainable tourism in our fast-changing world.

    Also known as the Land of the Beautiful Islands, Malaysia’s landscape and cultural diversity is almost unmatched on the planet. Those qualities were all put on display at the Malaysian stand during the IFTM trade show.

    Libra Hanif, director of Tourism Malaysia, explained the appeal of the country as well as the importance of promoting sustainable tourism today: “Sustainable travel is a major trend now, with the changes that are happening post-covid. People want to get close to nature, to get close to people. So Malaysia being a multicultural and diverse [country] with a lot of natural environments, we felt that it’s a good thing for us to promote Malaysia.”

    Malaysia has also gained fame in recent years, through its numerous UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which include Kinabalu Park and the Archaeological Heritage of the Lenggong Valley.

    Green mobility has also become an integral part of tourism in Malaysia, with an increasing number of people using bikes to discover the country: “If you are a little more adventurous, we have the mountain back trails where you can cut across gazetted trails to see the natural attractions and the wildlife that we have in Malaysia,” says Hanif. “If you are not that adventurous, you’ll be looking for relaxing cycling. We also have countryside spots, where you can see all the scenery in a relaxing session.”

    With more than 25,000 visitors at this IFTM trade show this year, Malaysia’s tourism board got to showcase the best the country and its people have to offer.

    In partnership with Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board. For more information about Malaysia, click here.

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