There will always be a France.
President’s Exercise Regime Has Critics in a Lather
By Joel Garreau
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 7, 2007; Page C01
The sight of the new French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, jogging — often wearing his favorite NYPD T-shirt — has fired up a tempest in a Reebok in France and Britain this summer. Sarkozy’s running is an un-French, right-wing conspiracy, suggests Paris‘ left-wing newspaper Libération. In response, British commentators gleefully conclude: The French have lost their minds, again.
On the primary state television channel, France 2, Alain Finkielkraut, a leading French intellectual, recently demanded that Sarkozy give up his “undignified” exercise. Not only did he imply that exposing the boss’s naked knees is something that never would have occurred in the time of Mitterrand, much less Louis XIV, Finkielkraut claimed strolling is the proper activity of the thinking person, from Socrates to the poet Arthur Rimbaud.
“Western civilization, in its best sense, was born with the promenade,” said Finkielkraut. “Walking is a sensitive, spiritual act. Jogging is management of the body. The jogger says I am in control. It has nothing to do with meditation.”
Sarkozy has fueled a French suspicion that running is for self-centered individualists like Americans, reports Charles Bremner, Paris correspondent for the Times of London.
“Patrick Mignon, a sports sociologist, noted that French intellectuals had always held sport in contempt, while totalitarian regimes cultivated physical fitness,” Bremner writes.
“Jogging is of course about performance and individualism, values that are traditionally ascribed to the right,” Odile Baudrier, editor of V02 magazine, a sports publication, told Libération.
The British press is having a wonderful time with all this.
“The Sarkozy jog, say his critics, is a sad imitation of the habits of American presidents, and a capitulation to ‘le défi Américain’ (a phrase that was the title of a book published here as ‘The American Challenge’) as bad as the influx of Hollywood movies,” writes Boris Johnson, a British member of Parliament and confirmed jogger, in the Telegraph.”
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