Olympics and Olympic Sports - French 'pretend to be British' for 2012

Mon, 25 Jan 14:16:00 2010

Pas-de-Calais in northern France is set to rebrand itself as part of southern England in a bid to cash in on the London Olympics.

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Mission 2012 will see 100m euros (£87.6m) of local investment, while tourism bosses are to launch a website which will offer advice to hoteliers.

The region is home to four centres of national excellence, with work under way on what will be the largest gymnastics centre in Europe.

And Pas-de-Calais recently signed a contract with the boxing, wrestling, judo and athletics teams of Chad to hold training camps in the run up to 2012, with the canoe and kayak teams of Uzbekistan and Senegal to follow suit.

Civic leader Dominque Dupilet told Sky News: "I consider that we are the south of England, and because we're the south of England it's normal that we would associate ourselves with this extraordinary event.

"My colleague was telling me to write a condolence card when Paris lost [the bid], but I was busy hoisting up the British flag.

"Don't tell anyone, but I always thought London was better for us."

The Eurostar high speed rail service will link the regions capital city, Calais, with Stratford International, adjacent to the Olympic Park and set to be opened later this year.

Calais was ruled by England for 200 years following the Hundred Years War and became the last piece of France to be recaptured from the English in 1558.

Pierre Nouchi, who owns a hotel in the area, insists tourists visiting the Games will be able to enjoy the best of both worlds by staying in France.

"Visitors will be able to benefit from the quality of our region, the quality of the French way of life, and they're scarcely two hours from London," said Nouchi.

"These days, if you're going from one area of London to another it takes that time anyway, what with the public transport. Here you have the quality and it's less expensive."


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