The Making of Les Bleus: Sport in France, 1958-2010

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Lexington Books, 16 dic 2012 - 238 pagine
The Making of Les Bleus traces the Fifth Republic’s quest to create elite athletes in two global team sports, football and basketball, primarily at the youth level. While the objective of this mission was to improve performances at international competitions, such programs were quickly seized upon to help ease domestic issues and tensions.

The onset of the Cold War forced countries of all sizes to rethink their relevancy. A country’s ability to exert “soft power,” or influence others through the cultural sphere, became more important. Sport was but one way through which to do so. The extent to which France harnessed the athletic domain was unprecedented among other West European nations.

In France, sport, particularly at the youth level, was used to cultivate soft power internationally, to transmit republican ideals of democracy and fair play to the youth, and to examine and create a modern, post-colonial French identity in a globalizing world. The French sought to find a “third way” in sports, much in the way that it sought to create an alternative between the diplomatic policies of Washington and Moscow. Fifth Republic sports systems placed the training of elite athletes under the state. At the same time, private clubs also played an important role in developing players to serve the republic in elite competition.

Examination of the republic’s quest to create elite athletes provides perspective on how France coped with and adapted to the post-1945 world. In what ways did the country reconfigure its global role? How did domestic changes impact society? In a globalizing, post-colonial world, how has France come to terms with the past? In what ways has France sought to create a new “French” identity? This story helps answer such questions. The history of the state’s cooption of youth sports forms a compelling tale and serves as a prism through which to investigate the larger history of France, the evolution of society, the impacts of the media revolution, and the government’s mission of public health. It underscores just how much things have changed—yet still remained the same.

You can find a podcast interview with the author about this book at:

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Introduction Setting the Scene
1 To Remake the Nations Image 19581973
2 De Gaulles Sports Crisis 19581973
3 Creating an Athletic Force de Frappe 19731984
4 Slackening the Strings 19841992
5 Victors Triumphant? 19922000
6 Dénouement 20002010
Conclusion A Second Sports Crisis?
Annex I Selected Biographies of Oral History Subjects

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