The ‘Jeux de la Francophonie’ is an event which has the particularity of bringing together sportsmen and artists who share the French language, running every 4 years since 1989. The first edition took place in Morocco in Rabat and Casablanca and the 2023 just took place in Kinshasa, RDC.

Judo is one of the 9 sports selected and our sport has been present since the creation of the Games. For this 9th edition, judo was represented by 29 nations and 184 competitors (79 women and 105 men). Judo remains the most represented sport both in terms of the number of athletes and the number of delegations. In co-operation with the organisers, the competition was managed by a team from the International Judo Federation.

Open to athletes aged 18 to 25, the event is a springboard to participating in the continental open and World Judo Tour competitions and perhaps for the best it could eventually lead to participation in the Paris Games in 2024 and those of Los Angeles in 2028. Whatever their result, each athlete left with a little more high level experience.

In Kinshasa, 19 out of 25 countries won medals. France, with 8 medals for 8 representatives, dominated this ranking, followed by Canada and Romania. On the occasion of the 2023 edition and for the first time, on an experimental basis, a mixed team competition was also held. The team of 6 athletes, plus substitutes, for women at -57kg, -70kg, + 70kg and for men at -73kg, -90kg, +90kg, corresponded to the Olympic format.

The athletes were divided by category into 16 teams, according to their individual ranking and a coach was chosen by draw. This first edition was a real success with the full commitment of everyone. The teams were named after cities that hosted previous editions of the Games, as well as cities of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Everyone, that is athletes, coaches, leaders and organisers, found this first edition great and we hope to see it repeated for future competitions.

The first ranked team was made up of nationals from Burundi, Romania, France, Cameroon, Mauritius, Benin and Morocco, with a Romanian coach. For the team ranked second, athletes cakes from Djibouti, Cameroon, France, Burundi, Morocco, Ivory Coast and Democratic Republic of Congo, with a coach from Benin.

For the Democratic Republic of the Congo, organising such an event was a real challenge. At all levels, a lot of effort has been made to make it a success by welcoming all the delegations in the best possible conditions.

Infrastructure was developed for the occasion and volunteers received training. The start was sometimes challenging but over the days everything improved greatly.

The number one asset of judo in the DRC remains the public though, an enthusiastic and knowledgeable public, who know how to make themselves heard, but with respect for the competitors. The room had a capacity of 2000 spectators and was full every day, with as many people waiting outside, prompting the organising committeee to install a giant screen so that all judo fans could follow the competition.

The organisation of a competition of this level for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the city of Kinshasa was an important first. The sites dedicated to the different sports and the experience gained will serve them to welcome other international events in the future. This is the legacy of the IX Jeux de la Franchophonie 2023, Kinshasa, DRC.

Source: Michel Huet Photos: Huu-Hanh Pham and Elisabetta Fratini

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