Steven Da Costa was received at the Elysee Palace yesterday with all the Tokyo Olympic medalists. Since his gold medal, the Frenchman has continued to defend the presence of karate in Paris, to the point of irritating the OCOG. National and regional press, Hanouna’s show… He has never miss any opportunity.

The Sports Minister took his side, as well as a hundred or so parliamentarians. But only one man can change the situation: the President of the Republic. What strategy (s) are currently adopted to move from the Elysee to Olympus ?

By Ludovic Mauchien

At the Elysee Palace yesterday, Steven Da Costa kept quiet. This was neither the place nor the time to argue. The idea is not to annoy the President, but to seduce him. If, for the moment, he is not yet really concerned by the Karate case, others are.

Starting with the Minister of Sports, Roxana Maracineanu, who questioned the absence of Karate from the Paris Olympics and publicly stated that she wants to « support and accompany » Steven Da Costa in his fight. She also requested a report from the French federation.

For its part, it increases contacts with parliamentarians. A meeting with the Senate vice-president is also scheduled. By mid-August, 114 of them were sending an open letter to Tony Estanguet, President of the OCOG. Some are taking individual initiatives, like Monica Michel, MP in the South of France, who has launched a petition.

Will this be enough to convince the President to look into the matter and, above all, to motivate him to change the mind of the IOC and the OCOG? Nothing is less sure. Even if it’s always better late than never, the timing is now extremely tight and above all, theoretically, politically, publicly, officially, the door is closed. Tony Estanguet and Kit McConnell, the IOC Sports Director, have reaffirmed this loud and clear. But, in the « better late than never » style, hope is alive. And it has the merit of making people talk about Karate.

Hope, however tenuous, small and thin, still exists. In order for it to last beyond 2021, however, the strategy must not be mistaken. It is also and above all necessary that Karate be united, from the base to the top of the pyramid, that it speaks with a united voice for a single goal : the presence of Karate at the Paris Olympics in 2024.

At the base of the Pyramid, some teachers and coaches are very hot to carry out actions, to mobilize publicly to alert the public and local and national elected officials. Crazy ideas are circulating, such as the idea of ​​organizing a giant Kata with several thousand Karateka at the Trocadero in Paris, with clubs from all over France. An idea that is also available at the local level, with a « Karate Paris 2024 » day where everyone would make a demonstration in town(s).

At the top of the Pyramid, we prefer to calm things down and act discreetly, politically correctly, fearing that this will create a « yellow vests effect » in the head of the President of the Republic. The idea is not to upset him. Already Karate in Paris will never be a priority issue if, in addition, it annoys the Elysee, any action will be wasted.

On the other hand, only a large public mobilization in favor of karate can motivate the President to look into the matter. The poll conducted on September 5 for the radio RTL in which 79% of French people regretted the absence of karate in 2024, is a good point (49% approval only for breakdance).

But the question is : which president ? The current one, who would think that seducing some 200,000 Karatekas can only be good for the presidential election next April ? Considering the tight timing, this seems wise. The possible candidates who could possibly be elected ? Nothing should be overlooked but it is better to beat the iron while it is hot than to bet on a campaign promise that will not be high on the agenda.

And, again, timing is everything. In April 2022, we will be 2 years from the Olympics. Admittedly, the European Olympic Committee (and therefore the IOC) just added a few days ago fencing and… breakdance to the program for the 2023 European Games, just a year in advance. But the Olympics are another machine.

If the decision will be played at the French level, an international mobilization is not negligible. But, for now, apart from the Moroccan Federation, through its president Mohamed Mouktabil, who wrote to Tony Estanguet in mid-August asking him to reconsider his position, the heralds are not legion.

In conclusion, the fight is far from won. We could even say it is lost in advance. But this was also the case with canoeing in 2000, when Tony Estanguet and his co-religionists fought to exist and him to then won his 2nd Gold medal. Time has come to fight !