If this week’s papers are to be believed, the chairman of the Pas de Calais regional council takes a pragmatic view of place. When London won the 2012 Games, Dominique Dupilet was quick to spot the opportunity. According to the Times, he raised the Union Jack above the Council offices within minutes of the announcement.
Now he’s promoting the region – a stone’s throw from Stratford (or perhaps more importantly, a short direct train ride from Stratford International) – as a great place to train and to stay during 2012. And with some success: Chad, Senegal and Uzbekistan are said to be planning to hold their training camps in the area. And presumably the idea of staying there may well appeal to some less-adventurous spectators from Francophone countries, attracted by (according to “tourist officials”) cheaper hotels, better food, and fewer English people!
It’s not purely a publicity stunt. The regional council is investing nearly £90 million in improving the tourism and sports infrastructure in preparation for 2012. So Dupilet may have put the backs up of his fellow countrymen and women by his tongue-in-cheek ‘rebranding’ of Calais as part of Britain (historically a sore point), but he’s certainly grabbed the initiative … as well as the headlines.