2008 – fevrier – culture

10 mai 2008
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janvier 2008 actualite

10 mai 2008

janvier 2008 actualite

Olympic Lyon dominates the French football league

10 mai 2008

Olympic Lyon are on course to win their seventh successive French championship title. Since 2002 the club presided over by Jean-Michel Aulas has beaten its rivals in the First Division. Lyon could even achieve a double with victory in the French cup this year. It is also the first French club to be quoted on the stock exchange. But now they need to reach a new level: conquer Europe and the Champions League. Cecile Mathy.

-Lyonnais supporters, Lyonnais supporters…

It’s match night at Gerland. Olympic Lyon are hosting Caen, four matches from the end of the French football championship. A seventh title is in their sights.

-It’s really extraordinary that Lyon… well that we’ve won six titles consecutively and then why not this year the French Cup, that would be superb as well, and above all the seventh title, that would be magnificent.

For Micheline, as for other OL supporters, the key to the success of the club is not necessarily where you’d expect to find it, on the pitch of course, but more than anything in the corridors.

-Back in 1972 when I arrived here, we were really at the bottom, the final reckoning was that we were nothing, now there’s been real progress with an excellent president, progress over the years.

-I think that Aulas has done a lot of good, despite the fact that certain people criticise him. I think that he’s done a lot of good at OL and that he can do a lot of good for French football. OL is a business. So compared to others which are clubs, it’s organised like a business and I think that if Aulas had to sack people, he’d sack people like you do in a business and I think that other people are a little bit behind with a family system or with shareholders but in-house. They need take the plunge.

Jean-Michel Aulas, the president of the club. At the end of the 1980s he took the reins of the Olympic Lyon and applied his entrepreneurial strategy. He was already the Managing Director of a company of accounting software and launched himself on his sporting adventure without any knowledge of soccer. But his rigorous management enabled him to clean up the situation and soon the club which was vegetating in the second division saw the doors open to the first division. Olivier Blanc, number three at Olympic Lyon and communications director.

-The big turning point came in 1987 when Jean-Michel Aulas took over a club which was in the second division with very limited financial means, hardly any players, and which had been in the second division for four years. So there he began to put the books straight and the club went back up in 1989 and he had an approach that was firstly very ambitious, because you’ve got to motivate people, you’ve got to motivate the business partners who came to join us and then there was a development strategy which was to say: « How can we find complementary resources? » It was certainly necessary to enlarge the range of partners, it was necessary to create and then develop a brand which could generate revenues and then rely on the training centre which was producing good players and try to sell them at the right moment to have complementary resources, which enabled the purchase of other players and little by little the climbing of the steps one by one. So the policy was a long term policy which came into place in 1987, then in 1989 the rise to the first division, then onto the first title in 2001; but even in the years 1995-1996 there were the foundations of success with a second place in the championship. You sensed that there was an evolution at Olympic Lyon, but in that era we still weren’t competitive enough. In parallel we were able to set up a branch in Brazil with one of our former players Marcello and thanks to a very good rapport with Bernard Lacombe we were able to get Brazilian players of a very high standard, with enormous potential and at a low cost because they hadn’t yet come to Europe and they contributed too to the development of the club, there was Edmilson, there was Juninho, then afterwards all the others who’ve accompanied us, but the arrival of Edmilson or Juninho was decisive, Juninho notably arrived in the year of the first title.

In the 90s the results started to come on the pitch but they were still along way from being at the top of the championship. A new level was reached with the arrival of Sony Anderson. In 2001 the club won its first title by winning the League Cup. Thomas Nardone is a journalist at Lyon-Mag, he’s also the author of a book about the President of OL: « Jean-Michel Aulaus, Undercover Investigation »;

-The trigger was in 1999 when he managed to bring Jerome Seydoux, the boss of Pathe, Pathe cinemas, into the capital of OL and that for 100 million francs, an enormous sum at the time; he also managed to bring in an extraordinary player who left his mark on the history of Olympic Lyon and that was Sonny Anderson, and this double trigger, on the one hand financially with the arrival of Jerome Seydoux and in a sporting sense with the arrival of Sonny Anderson, which really brought Olympic Lyon into a new era which was the era as French champions. When he paid 100 million francs – which was a record at the time in the French championship – to bring in Anderson it was a real risk, lots of people said: « He’s mad, he’s gone off his head, he will sink the company » whereas on the contrary it really enabled OL to break new ground.

Oliver Blanc confirms: the boss of OL already had has battle plan in mind right from his arrival at the club.

-It’s true he was a visionary, he anticipated an enormous number of things, he knew how to be patient, he learnt about football, not what went on on the pitch – also on the pitch – but above all the corridors of football, how it all functions, and then he was visionary about a number of things: Bernard Lacombe often tells an anecdote from 1987 when took over the presidency of the club, he told Bernard Lacombe when he’d brought him in: « You know, one day we’ll have our own television station » which was completely not even utopian, a priori it was completely ridiculous as Bernard says in 1987… and yet it’s what has happened.

Today OL has a budget of 150 million euros, so the club has its television station: OL-TV, a restaurant in the town centre and a brasserie which has just opened inside the city’s airport. The brand has been launched but this approach, very much centred on the numbers, doesn’t make everyone happy. Thomas Nardone:

-OL is Jean-Michel Aulas and Jean-Michel Aulas has an approach which is in the end very much that of a businessman and often he talks more about the economic results than the sporting results, and that… football fans who want to see a good game they don’t like that, they don’t like people talking to their wallets, they want people who talk to their hearts. And for example, it’s someone like Michel Platini – who today is the president of UEFA and is a former superstar in France – he said himself : « I’d never buy shares to see OL go up three points in the stock-market, I’m there to see OL take three points on the pitch. » And I think that today there’s a real split between on the one hand the investors, the businessman who associate themselves with Aulas’s approach and the vast majority of supporters who don’t like this cold approach and who prefer someone who can make them dream like Bernard Tapie knew how to make people dream.

-Are there players today who can make the people of Lyon dream?

-Well undeniably Benzema of course who is the new prodigy at OL, who has two advantages. Firstly he is exceptional on the pitch and secondly what’s more he comes from Bron, he comes from the suburbs of Lyon, so to a certain extent that’s Lyon’s identity. It’s rare today in modern football, where transfers happen very quickly and where clubs are no longer necessarily associated with players from the grass roots, if I can put it like that. The big strength of OL is this stability, in the end, the stability of the president, stability with the coaches, even if they change every two or three years, still they keep their place even when there are periods that are a little barren, poor results, they keep their place. And so there’s no adversary to match them and that as well is linked to Jean-Michel Aulas’s strategy which is to try by whatever means possible to take the best players from other French clubs; which a good manoeuvre, it’s the competition, it’s a good manoeuvre because either the other club loses its best player, or it’s obliged to pay more to keep its best player so it’s weakened in its efforts to recruit other re-enforcements. I think it’s a bit short range as a strategy. The problem is that by playing matches which in the end don’t count for much, which aren’t very difficult for them in the First Division, when it comes to the Champions’ League, where they find themselves facing big clubs, who are used in their own championships to playing big matches, real clashes on a regular basis, they don’t manage to make the transition and that is what handicaps Olympic Lyon today.

OL dream now of Europe. Olympic Lyon feel confined in a French championship which they’ve coasted over since the beginning of the first decade of the millennium. In the Champions’ League it’s more difficult, for the second consecutive year Lyon were eliminated in the last 16. To be on the bill one day in a final against Manchester or Barcelona, OL need to increase their capital even more. Olivier Blanc:

-We’re competing in the Champions’ League for the 8th consecutive year, you should bear in mind that before Olympic Lyon no French club had managed to play in it for two successive years. So that’s really a considerable progress, we’re around about the 10th European club in terms of budget, in terms of sporting results and there’s such a big gap with the others that it’s true we need complementary revenues and the prospect of this stadium which will come at the beginning of the next decade and will indeed enable us to generate complementary revenues and so attempt to catch up a little bit on the lag we have behind the English clubs.

This big stadium on the outskirts of Lyon could house 60 000 spectators, 20 000 more than Gerland. At the moment matches there are played pretty much to full houses. But more than a stadium, OL Land will allow Lyon to fulfil its ambitions of grandeur, with a shopping centre, a leisure centre and offices.

All that remains to be done is to maintain the results on the pitch because after seven seasons of unmitigated domination over the world of French football, the pressure is higher. Lyon could run out of steam, with the subsequent risk of no longer filling the stadiums. Thomas Nardone:

– Lyon is not a working class city like Marseille, or Saint-Etienne or Lens. The population of Lyon has never been fanatical about football, so today OL are winning, OL play good football, so the Lyonnais go to the stadium. If OL no longer win, I’m not sure there’ll still be 40 000 yet alone the 60 000 people in the new stadium that Jean-Michel Aulas wants coming to see OL.

But we’re still a long way off that catastrophic scenario, the proof is in the fine run Lyon have had in the French cup as well. Whatever their future, Olympic Lyon and Jean-Michel Aulas will have left their mark on the history of French football.

Let’s go, Let’s go, Let’s go The O L.

The May ’68 Initiative: In the factories, too!

10 mai 2008

May 1968. Students construct barricades, the youth shake up an « old school » France too stuck in its ways for its taste and, we often forget, 13 million salaried employees stop working all at once in order to obtain salary increases and better working conditions. In La Rochelle, the university wasn’t there yet, but they also had a « May ’68 », as this former tool and die maker tells us. At the time he was 24 years old. He responds to Florence Maitre.

-Well, my name is Michel, Michel Guitton and in 1968, I was the CGT union secretary at a business that was then called Brissonneau and Lotz and which today is called Alsthom. At that time, in 1968, there must have been about 1000 of us… 1200 to 1300 salaried employees. Already, in 1968, we had led a union initiative around salary and buying power at the beginning of the year, in January and February, and 1968 came with news about the student movement, and we said to ourselves: « You see, they, too, want to live better, in a better world, to be rid of this continual pressure, etc. » We recognised each other, I would say, automatically. We didn’t have a thorough evaluation of what the students’ demands were on the whole, but we recognised each other automatically through these struggles and these demonstrations for a better life, so we were very much awakened.

So, it began when? When and how here in La Rochelle?

-Well, in La Rochelle, it was a fairly quick movement in the metalworking industry, beginning notably with the large demonstration on May 13th. So it began, we’ll say, in the first fortnight in May and it continued, as far as we were concerned, until the first fortnight in June because the metalworking industry, which was quite boisterous in matters of social concern, was in some ways a bit punished since they told us: « There was Grenelle, period, and there will be nothing more than Grenelle. » And we, we were orphans of two negotiations which had not advanced. These were the reduction of working hours, the 48 hour work week limit, that is to say, that there was also overtime, which made for a lot of work, and concerning retirement at age 60, we had obtained nothing.

You said, you had other strikes, this was a very active sector, but there was something special at that moment in ’68…

-Yes, it was indeed a larger movement. Quite fortunately, there was not only Alsthom! Our shipyard friends were very active as well, the chemists, the civil servants, etc. The most diverse bodies of workers got involved in the strike: the sailors! The sailors, etc. We had a port, at the time much more active than today, a fishing port but also a commercial port. There were 400 dock workers at La Rochelle. There are less than 80, I believe, now. Therefore, all of this created a very distinctive environment, both a rather remarkable calm, when you consider the minimal traffic, and at the same time, an extraordinary hustle and bustle where you’d find some ten thousand people in Verdun Square. So therefore, it was a city, La Rochelle, that was very alive and at the same time very quiet when the large gatherings of social demonstrators passed through. It’s true that the city knew moments of calm sometimes rather extraordinary compared with today.

Were there people who reacted badly to these things, who came to tell you: « You would do better to go to work! » I don’t know, things like that. Were you confronted with situations like that?

-Of course, like everywhere. For example, there were picket lines that at one time or another could be attacked by rocks or by bocce balls thrown at them by, those whom we called and still call today, people from the extreme right. It never went very far, but there were some little moments like that which were a bit heated. There was an anti-strike demonstration from people claiming to be Gaullists who got together in La Rochelle at Verdun Square with a demonstration that was more symbolic than anything else, and that we went to see out of curiosity. So, there was some name-calling, but nothing much, nothing much. All the more, we recognised who was a shopkeeper in our neighbourhood, who was someone… « Hey, well, I didn’t know that he would have been here. » Well, it was never very cruel. On the other hand, there was sometimes much more tension tied to routine questions, for example, fuel. It was at the labour exchange (unemployment office) that they gave out fuel vouchers for those who were most in need of them, and notably of course, people from public health, for essential services mainly. It was rather amusing, it was rather amusing…it was a sort of…power. We mustn’t say that because it wouldn’t be fair. We never looked to have any special power, but the responsibility of providing a minimum to the people of La Rochelle, that’s what! It was rather amusing to see that and then, well, the atmosphere as a whole was nevertheless rather serene, I’d say. La Rochelle did not experience any serious incidents. It experienced some exchanges that were a bit heated but no major incident.

Did you talk about…Did you talk among yourselves about the events which took place in Paris? I’m thinking of course about the student movement.

-It’s true that there was somewhat of a gap between some student demands, some calls to strike, some gatherings like that of Charlety or another when they talked of collective management, of new management, things like that, which for salaried employees wasn’t automatically the most urgent. The working class went out to strike in masses in ’68 for a better life, in terms of its daily bread, that is say, to have more money, in terms of working hours, of retirement, etc. So, we were accused of being somewhat « proletarian » by some of leaders in the student world. They came to see us at the gates of our workplaces, or even to distribute pamphlets which described us as « proletarian » and that we would do better to be concerned with collective management or co-management than with what we were doing. So, well, there were differences. It rather pleased us to see the youth getting active and then acting in such a way, as they wished to have a better life than we had or than our parents had been able to have. That’s what’s happened until today, when unfortunately, we have today rather a movement which is the opposite.

What view do you take on the current situation? We see the high school students in the streets, we’re making reference all the time to ’68, etc. Okay, there will not necessarily be another May ’68, but do you sometimes sense things that indeed make you think about what preceded this movement?

-Absolutely. We’re in a situation where all of the elements are in place, so that the largest social sectors are beginning to act. In ’68 we had an accumulation of factors, which I just told you about: low wages, 48 hours, hourly pay and not monthly, etc. Well, today there are a certain number of situations, which are not automatically the same but which prepare the ground for it: job insecurity, underemployment, low wages. People who are paid minimum wage are nevertheless much too numerous. And with the minimum wage today, you still can’t say that you’re a mogul because you live on minimum wage. There is a decline in the social welfare system which, currently, is one of the hot topics as well, etc. Just like before ’68, the orders of General De Gaulle had mobilised in an extraordinary way the social welfare system. When you see all that’s happening around the banks today, that adds a tension, a discontentment, even an anger. There are today really, yes, some of the key elements, as one would say in a scholarly manner, for there to be a large movement. I was hearing this morning the same thing on the radio about black labour (illegal immigrants). I am really telling you that black labour is going to strike. It’s extraordinary, unbelievable. People whose objective is to survive, but in hiding, since you mustn’t know who, just like that, is at the front of the stage. It’s an extraordinary example of political representation

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Reading: Colette (1873-1954)

10 mai 2008

Gabrielle Sidonie Colette was born in Saint Saveur en Puisaye in Burgundy. Colette was thus her family name, not her given name, even though Colette is also a feminine given name.

Brought up in the country by close-knit parents concerned for her well being and for her development, she acquired a strong sensory appetite. She appreciated flavours, for her mother was both a good gardener and a good cook, and she appreciated the changing smells, from evening to morning, in the woods and in the meadows, in sunshine or in rain; she appreciated the animals, especially cats which she kept around her all of her life. To read Colette is to drink, to eat, to breathe, to caress.

Her appetite for life pushed her at age 20 « to follow a star » to a life in Paris. She married a fashionable figure of the literary scene, Henri Gauthier-Villars, nicknamed Willy. Following his advice, she wrote novels romanticising her childhood memories, The Complete Claudine (1900-1903) with Claudine at School, Claudine in Paris, Claudine Married, and Claudine and Annie. However this literary man was also a business man. Willy, recognising the value of the connection, published them under his own name. Then it turned out that this business man was a ladies’ man. He neglected her.

In 1906, divorce brought freedom to Gabrielle Sidonie. It was then that she became a mime artist, a dancer, an entertainer in the music-hall. She went on tour all over the country meeting many people. However, the books which she published between 1908 and 1914 were the result of her reflections on desertion and loneliness; they were Tendrils of the Vine (1908), The Vagabond (1910), The Shackle (1913).

With the arrival of the First World War, Colette earned a living writing in several newspapers, Le Matin, Le Figaro, La Vie Parisienne, excellent articles, columns, and theatrical reviews.

Peace restored, she resumed the writing of her literary works for a living. Cheri, Green Wheat, Break of Day, and The Cat explored the temptations of life. Both of them, temptation and life, are important. To what extent and in what way can we let ourselves be tempted without risking our lives?

If Colette knocked down the barriers of polite society early on in order to slide into the margins, she was not looking to lose sight of herself. She built her very being by watching the many facets of life illuminate. During the course of her travels she grew. She is a literary guide in the labyrinth of the human spirit.

Elected as a member of the Academy Goncourt [1] in 1945, she died at the height of her literary glory on 3rd April 1954 in Paris. France gave her a state funeral recognising the extent of her literary works. As she used to say, tongue in cheek: « French is quite a difficult language. It’s after writing for just over 45 years that you begin to notice that. »

The Pure and the Impure

« Perhaps one day they will see it as my best book », Colette wrote to Maurice Goudeket, her third husband. Let’s assume that she was in the best position to say this, and let’s make it our task to seek to understand why she said it. She was in her sixtieth year in 1932; this is therefore a mature work.

We enter into parallel worlds, that of opium, of alcohol, of forbidden love. It is about forming human relationships. At the end of the story, we understand that it is about self love. Each person is trying hard to make themselves loveable by acting in a way that they believe makes them lovable. Some go into a trance in order to rid themselves of their inhibitions, or to provoke others, or to get over their own troubles. Yet, throughout the book, Colette shows us that these trances don’t equate with natural behaviour, whether it be instinctive or authentic. As for herself, she recognises aspects of human nature and praises their beauty. That is the pure side. To make it best stand out, she shows the side that is also essential, the so-called impure side.

To enter into the book, we push open the door of an opium den in Paris. It is a secret world, but not very, since Colette meets there, not surprisingly, a fellow journalist and novelist. She meets Madame there… Charlotte. A fake society drop-out, a fake name, a false paradise.

Charlotte’s secret escape to the opium den is not fulfilling. The two women talk. We realise that there is something missing in Charlotte. Following a disappointment, she has retreated within herself. She no longer gives herself to anyone, body and soul. She refuses to come out of this state of sentimental reclusion, but she is really hoping to.

– Madame Charlotte, what you are « really » missing… are you looking for it?

She smiles, her head tilted back, revealing under a dim light the underside of her pretty, short nose, her slightly chubby chin, her gapless set of teeth.

– I am not so naive Madame, not so debauched. What I am missing, I can do without, and that’s all there is to it. Don’t give me credit for it, no… but something which we know well from having possessed it, we are never really deprived of it.

To get into this book, Colette offers us the key of her own experience.

« I set sail, when I think of Charlotte, on a sea of memories of nights when neither sleep nor certainty reigned. The veiled face of a slender lady, disillusioned, acquainted with deceit, delicate, crosses the threshold of this book which will sadly speak about pleasure. »

‘The artificial paradises’ are bad ideas which we make for ourselves based on developing sensuality. It is not a question of institutional morality. Pure pleasure is a primordial, infallible instinct. The attraction of ‘these pleasures which we name lightly, physical’ – the word is Colette’s – is inexorable.

« In this word inexorable, I bring together the array of forces to which we know only to give the name « senses ». The senses? Why not the sense? It would be modest enough. Sense: five other sub senses venture off far from it, which call them back with a jolt – lightly-touching ribbons which itch, partly like grass, partly like the tentacles deployed by an underwater creature. »

« Senses, uncompromising lords, ignorant like the princes of bygone times, who learned only that which was necessary: to conceal, to hate, to order… it is you however that Charlotte asleep for a peaceful night, subdued by opium, used to keep in check, assigning arbitrary limits to your empire; but who then, Charlotte, can fix your unstable boundaries?… »

« In the face of alcohol, of donjuanism [2], of homosexuality, it is not a book which decides between good and evil, nor even between right and wrong, we meet in it a misogynous Don Juan. It is a piece of music which maintains our awareness of evil to avoid that it [our awareness] should fall asleep on the judgments of a kangaroo court. »

« PUR … the short explosive consonant, the doleful ‘U’, the crystal clear ‘R’. It used to awake nothing in me, except the need to hear again its distinctive sound, its muffled echo like a drip which drops from and into invisible water. The word ‘pur’ has not revealed to me its true meaning. »

[1] Academie Goncourt – Prestigious institution created to honour living figures in the French literary world.

[2] Donjuanism – the idea of being a ladies’ man; the term is derived from the name of the legendary Spaniard Don Juan.

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