On the dawn of the throw-off for the 25th IHF Men’s World Championship in France, the official opening press conference took place at the spectacular ‘Institut du Monde Arabe’.
Opened in 1987, the Institut du Monde Arabe is a modern architectural symbol of dialogue between Western culture and the Arab world and the France 2017 opening press conference took place in its rooftop ‘High Council Room’.
On one side of the room there were amazing views of Paris, Notre-Dame cathedral and the Seine river, and on the other side of the room there 240 mashrabiyas - the traditional patterns of Arab geometry – opening and closing through natural light control based on the amount of sunshine, all of which made a stunning backdrop.
In front of a specially-invited group of over 100 media representatives and VIPs from around the world, IHF President Dr. Hassan Moustafa confirmed that France 2017 was ready – the third time the French have hosted an IHF Men's World Championship, following the 1970 and 2001 editions.
"This championship will be a landmark event in the history of handball - we expect it to be the best-ever world championship,” said the IHF President.
“We’re are very happy to be here in France. France is a leading country for our sport, not only in Europe, but worldwide.
“It has been a marathon of more than five years working together; meetings, discussions and finally, we are at the end – tomorrow, with the opening ceremony.”
Along with Dr. Moustafa on stage was Joel Delplanque, President of the France Handball 2017 Organising Committee and IHF Council – Executive Member.
"We are actually in the final stretch of the marathon,” said Delplanque. “In five years of preparation, our objectives have not changed: we wish, first of all, that in terms of organisation, we are at the top;
“We want the recognition of our sport to be able to take the next steps and we are delighted at the tremendous mobilisation around the world championship in all of our territories - we intend to leave a legacy for the development of our discipline, which is already the case, since more than half of the tickets sold to date have been handed to people not from the ‘handball family’.
“This adventure, I am convinced, will turn French handball into another dimension and will be a phenomenal success.”
Patric Strub, IHF Director of Competitions, then explained to the world’s media that France 2017 will feature 24 teams from four continents playing 84 matches in eight venues with 18 days of handball action in the 19-day long competition.
With 407 players accredited ahead of the tournament, he was quick to stress that several changes have been made to the playing schedule and organisation with the sole of aim of ensuring the best possible environment for those competing.
In contrast to previous championships, at France 2017 teams will only play games over consecutive days once, eighth-finals will be taking place at the weekend for the first time and those who win, staying in the same city to avoid travelling. Each semi-final, the bronze medal match and final will take place on separate days.
“We have reduced the pressure on the teams and therefore the risk of injuries,” said Strub. “We will give more time to the players to relax and recover so in the end in the decisive matches we will see the best performances from the teams.
Strub went on to confirm the IHF financial investment into the tournament with insurance protection against loss of salary towards players’ clubs, travel to France being provided, qualification bonus and release fee to clubs before remarking on a first for a men’s world championship.
“It is also very special - and something not normal for the IHF - but we have two couples from the host nation,” he explained. “For the first time in history of the men’s world championship we have a female couple nominated (Charlotte and Julie Bonaventura) for a men’s event.
“It is very special for us and we are very proud of this.”
Strub went on to confirm the use of the video proofing system before French women’s national team coach and France 2017 Competition Director Olivier Krumbholz explained his excitement about the tournament.
"We will have the opportunity to see the different way handball is played around the world,” said Krumbholz. “It is not played the same way in Japan, Brazil, Angola, France or Russia - each has its own culture, and that is what will make this championship exceptional.”
Edouard Donnelly, Director General of the France 2017 Organising Committee, was praised by Dr. Moustafa for his hard work before confirming that the public interest in the tournament is large.
“We have 431,000 spectators guaranteed, with a 67% capacity filled in our eight arenas at the throw-off of the competition,” he said. “We have phenomenal environments in the stadiums and the fan villages who will host fans from across the world.
“This, combined with more than 1,000 accredited journalists – a 50% split between French and non-French – featuring 28 broadcasters across 178 countries with a potential target audience of 147 million, all overseen by beIN SPORTS, the host broadcaster.”
Former player Philippe Gardent, who won gold with France at the 1995 IHF Men’s World Handball Championship in Iceland, along with France 2017 Ambassador and actress Claudia Tagbo, were also present for some interviews ahead of the official conference ending, followed by one-on-one interviews for the gathered journalists with those involved.