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Monday, 14 February 2011

French tennis open stays at Roland Garros

The Fédération Française de Tennis (French tennis federation, FFT) has decided that the French Open will continue to be played at Stade de Roland Garros (Roland Garros Stadium) in Paris.

At the weekend it voted to renovate and enlarge the existing venue on the outskirts of the capital's 16th arrondissement rather than move to a new site in the suburbs.

(Screenshot from TF1 news)

Roland Garros had been up against stiff competition from three other alternatives, all aiming to host the clay court event which is the second of the annual four Grand Slam tournaments.

It was a process that had begun almost two years ago when the FFT invited bids to stage the French Open from 2016 because the current site, which had been its home since 1928, was considered too small and difficult to extend.

The other candidates had been Gonesse in the northeastern suburbs of Paris almost 17 kilometres from the centre, Versailles - home of the famous palace - 17 kilometres to the west, and Marne-la-Vallée - a new town 32 kilometres to the east and best known perhaps for being the home of Disneyland, Paris.

But in the end the FFT plumped for tradition and in the process bucked the trend of, in the words of its president Jean Gachassin, "Having things on a grand scale."

"When we began looking at how we could modernise the stadium at Roland Garros our ambition was to be able to offer a real plan that would ensure the future and the high quality of the event," he says on the federation's website.

"By choosing Paris and deciding to modernise, expand and completely rethink the historical site of Roland Garros, the FFT has opted for a magnificent and unique project which allows us to distinguish ourselves from other tournaments and remain true to our values."

Among the renovations are the building of a retractable roof over the Philippe Chatrier centre court and a totally new 8,000-capacity court.

Costs of course also played an important part in the decision with renovation of Roland Garros put at €275 million rather than the €460 million plus price tag of the other three alternative sites, all of which would have required building from scratch.

While Vincent Eblé, who is president of the regional council of Seine-et-Marne, the département in which Marne-la-Vallée is located, congratulated Paris on its "win" he also had a word of warning.

"As is the tradition in sport we are 'fair play' and wish Paris and the federation all the luck in creating a stadium that France needs," he told Agence France Presse .

"But it is far from being faced with an easy job," he added ominously.

And reflecting a certain disquiet among some over the decision was Amélie Mauresmo, a former world number who retired in 2009.

"I hope the federation won’t get in trouble by taking this decision,” Mauresmo, who is now co-director of the Open Gaz de France, said.

“I don’t know if the tennis aspect prevailed in - I have my doubts."

The "trouble" could be the extension of the site to include part of the neighbouring botanical gardens, le Jardin des Serres d'Auteuil, which Yves Contassot, a councillor in Paris for the ecology party Les Verts, says represent just one of any number of judicial and administrative obstacles.

"There'll have to be changes made in planning regulations in Paris and that'll have to go to a local, departmental and national level as well," he told French television.

"Commissions will also have to determine what happens to a site classified as of 'historical interest' and at least two ministries will be involved," he continued.

"I don't believe that by 2015 there'll be an extra court on the site which is currently occupied by the gardens."

Game, set and match, it seems, is far from being called.

Maybe Mickey and friends can still hold out hope.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well I think it's right that the French Open should be hosted in Paris, makes a lot more sense for tourists who can easily make their way to Porte d'Auteuil by metro.

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