Thursday, November 18, 2010

"c'est Marseille!"-- Director Andy Wood in France Part 2

By Andy J. Wood, Project Coach Director

PC Director with the French Commission
Hoops by the sea in Marseille
MARSEILLE, FRANCE: "c'est Marseille!"

It's a phrase I've heard over and over again since my arrival. At first, it seemed little more than someone pointing out the obvious; yes -- of course we're in Marseille...I've at least figured that part out by now. But in the past couple of days, I've started to understand its real significance. In essence, it's the stock response for anything relating to the unique quirkiness that exists in Marseilles;

 "why do people park their cars on traffic islands and in front of the doors to stores so you literally can't get in?". 'C'est Marseille'

"why do people drive their motorcycles down the sidewalk in the pedestrian district at 50 miles per hour?" 'C'est Marseille'

"why do the glass shower doors only cover a quarter of the bath length, thus flooding the entire room every time you use it?" 'C'est Marseille'

It's partly what could make living here incredibly infuriating to an outsider, I'd assume, but more importantly it encapsulates what makes this city so purely unique, and unsurpassable for its flair. It also means that you're likely to meet some incredibly warm and gentile people, as has been the case so far during my stay. How does this relate to PC? In short, these new-found friends encapsulate many of the very same traits that we hold in high esteem within our program: versatility, passion, determination, vibrance, and -moreover - a clear 'joie de vivre'.

Thanks to the continued generosity and cooperation of our amiable French hosts, my time over the past two days has been evenly spent between meeting the Presidents of eight basketball clubs from which the youth for the exchange program will be selected - along with their coaches - and running PC clinics for such teens, and feasting at a variety of excellent eating establishments, courtesy of our colleagues at the American Consulate and the Marseille Sports Bureau. Indeed, we had the pleasure of meeting with all of these entities at a group-wide meeting earlier today at the soccer complex of Olympique Marseille, where I was able to share some video and slides depicting PC to a very eager and impressed audience.

Soon we will embark upon visits to the final two clubs on our tour schedule. The structure of organized sport in Marseille - and in France in general - is vastly different from that of the US, and arguably more impressive. Over 1500 sports clubs across many disciplines and ages exist in this very city alone, supported by some private sector contributions, but in large part from public source funding. As a result, an intricate network of gyms, pools, fields, and stadia criss-cross this diverse city, stretching from the beautiful coastal areas to the rugged limestone hills that encompass the region to the north. Control of this sizeable organization lies ultimately within the mayor's office, for whom our superb host Monsieur Francois Noel works. To give some sense of scope, the city boasts 46 full size gyms, 17 swimming pools, and a logistical planning staff of over 230. Put simply, they take this stuff seriously.

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