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Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The Dakar rally, the former beauty queen and French TV

What happens when two French institutions "meet"?

Easy. You get one - a former Miss France - commentating on another - the Paris-Dakar.

And all hell has been let loose among sports journalists miffed, thinking that they've been passed over for the job.

Screenshot from official promo video, Dakar 2011

That annual real life version of the television cartoon Wacky Races - aka The Dakar (formerly Paris-Dakar) - hasn't yet got underway, but already it's providing plenty of what the French seem to love so much, "polemic".

At the heart of the furore is a former beauty queen, Élodie Gossuin, Miss France 2001 and Miss Europe in the same year.

No the 30-year-old is not going to don a helmet rather than a coronet.

Instead the powers that be at France Television have decided that she should join the commentary team during the Rally which begins on January 1; an appointment that certainly hasn't been to everyone's liking.

So much so that it quickly became apparent that all was not well among sports journalists at France Television and initial reports after the announcement was made suggested that five of them belonging to la société des journalistes du service des sports, or the sports desk if you will, along with their president, Nicolas Vinoy, and spokesman Gérard Holtz, had resigned in protest.

"The position of consultant during the Paris-Dakar was a coveted one," it was reported.

It wasn't apparently Gossuin per se to whom they objected but the way her appointment had been made.

As it turned out, only Vinoy had handed in his notice and that was "nothing to do with the arrival of Gossuin," according to Daniel Bilalian, the director of sports at France Television, suggesting that there were other problems among the team that had been "brought to a head" by the appointment.

"Élodie Gossuin has already participated in Andros Trophy (the French national ice racing championships) and she's familiar with motorsports," he said.

"She's welcome to the team covering the Dakar, and I wanted her to be a part of it."

With Gossuin the subject of both the sports and celebrity pages of newspapers, it wasn't long of course before journalists turned their attention to how she felt about the "polemic" (yes there's that word again).

"It has been very unpleasant and I wish it had happened differently," she told Europe 1 national radio.

"These are internal problems that don't concern me," she added.

"I have no pretensions of wanting to call myself a journalist, I'm just going to be a consultant."

And that means, according to Holtz, who is also one of the race commentators, "adding colour" to the event by "spending time with doctors and cooks" rather than reporting directly on the rally itself; for which even she admits she isn't qualified.

This year's Dakar begins on January 1 in Buenos Aires, Argentina and if it is nearly half as lively as the pre-rally build-up has been so far, it should be more than entertaining.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

And apparently, she is now to be called "Your excellency"...Oh sorry, thought you had written a piece on Rama Yade being nominated ambassador to Unesco.

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