What killed the Mondial de Millau

For 34 years, starting in 1981, Le Mondial de Millau was one of the most important petanque competitions (perhaps THE most important competition) in France and in the world, attracting the world’s top pétanque players. Unlike Le Mondial la Marseillaise à Pétanque which is only a triples event, Millau held open singles, doubles, and triples competitions for both men and women, as well as a mixed triples competition. It was a 5-day pétanque festival that attracted 15,000 spectators (or 50,000, depending on who you ask) and 5,000 players. It was supported by an army of 400-500 volunteers. While it was being played in mid-August, it was impossible to find an un-booked hotel room within 80 kilometers of Millau.

The event was hugely profitable for the city— the Millau tourist office estimated the economic benefits to the city at around €2.5 million. But the size of the event also caused disruptions to the lives of residents. Traffic became a problem, and cars and huge motor homes were parked everywhere, in spots both legal and illegal. (In 2015 the local police department issued over 500 parking tickets to vistors to the event.) Residents living near La Victoire Park, the location of the event, couldn’t find parking close to their own homes.

Matters came to a boil after the 34th Mondial, on August 26, 2015. There was a meeting at the sub-prefecture office, attended by the competition sponsor, Millau Pétanque Promotion (MPP) (represented by its four co-presidents— Claude Lacan, Claude Bonneviale, Bernard Rouquayrol and Jean-Pierre Mas), the mayor of Millau (Christophe Saint-Pierre), the sub-prefect of Millau (Bernard Breyton) and the police commander.

The mayor noted the complaints by residents. He noted the cost to the city of supporting the event: about €100,000 out of an annual budget of €600,000. And he requested that the MPP start taking responsibility for managing the parking and traffic issues associated with the event.

That theme was continued by the sub-prefect, who asked the MPP to be aware of the problems that the event was causing for local resident, and to comply with the local parking and traffic ordinances. The MPP co-chairs admitted that they had never read the municipal ordinances governing such subjects. The sub-prefect expressed the opinion that the event organizers clearly hadn’t given much thought to these issues, that that was damaging for the city of Millau, and was not acceptable. (On September 19 the prefecture of Aveyron issed an official position statement, supporting the city and noting that the “anarchic” parking of vehicles around the event hindered access of security personnel and emergency response vehicles trying to get to La Victoire Park.)

The mayor then went on to outline specific proposals for dealing with the issues that had been raised. The city, he said, appreciated the importance of the work done by the many volunteers, and the need for the volunteers to be able to park their vehicles near La Victoire Park. He proposed that during the event volunteers could park at the Crés school and that the city could also allocate to the volunteers all or part of the parking lot of la Menuiserie. On the delicate question of motorhomes (specifically for travelers who settle everywhere, particularly along the Boulevard Jean Gabriac, a site where family gardens had been vandalized) the mayor proposed using the parking at la Sernam as a supplemental reception area. “I also asked the neighborhoods (collectivités) to make an inventory of potentially usable reception areas on the outskirts of the city to organize the competitors parking.” He proposed that MPP should be in charge of shuttles running between La Victoire Park and the parking areas on the outskirts of the city, and also installation of signs (created by the city) directing motorists to the event parking locations. And he proposed that MPP organize pre-registrations for the event on their website. “By having early contact with the players, MPP could inform and direct them to a particular parking area. They already do this at Espalion and the Marseillaise. I don’t see why we can’t do it at the Mondial. In other big local events, it already works like that.” [See the mayor’s position paper.] In closing, the mayor promised to work with the MPP and the various municipal services to refine these proposals, with the goal of working out an arrangement that would be comfortable for both the competition and the residents. And he specifically noted that the city was committed to continuing support for the Mondial in the future.

The mayor and the sub-prefect may or may not have been very tactful in stating their concerns and proposals. In any event the MPP co-chairs came away from the meeting angry, feeling that they had been verbally assaulted (“We were even accused of not being able to read”), and with a strong feeling that the mayor, the sub-prefect and the police commander were all hostile to the Mondial.

On Wednesday, September 9, 2015, the four co-presidents of the MPP announced that they had decided that there would be no 35th Mondial de Millau. They had decided to kill the Mondial de Millau. The spokesman for the group, Jean-Pierre Mas (son of the event’s original founder, Damien Mas) said Nous sommes dans l’incapacité de poursuivre l’organisation du Mondial car les conditions ne sont plus réunies pour cela… (“We are unable to continue organization of the Mondial because we can no longer meet the conditions for it.”) “The positions of the sub-prefect and especially the police commander are incompatible with pursuing the Mondial. We will never be able to comply with what the sub-prefect asks us. Traffic and flow of visitors outside La Victoire Park must not be our responsibility.” Later he was quoted as saying L’ordre public ne relève pas de notre compétence. (“Public order is not our business.”)

Social media immediately erupted with a firestorm of criticism of the mayor for killing the Mondial.

In response the mayor pointed out that it was the MPP, not he, who had decided to kill the Mondial, and he characterized the MPP’s decision as “regrettable”, “hasty” and “disproportionate”. “I never questioned the competition as such. What I said was that because of the success of the event, there were elements of the way that participants are welcomed that needed to be managed, especially around La Victoire Park, to ensure normal living conditions for the residents. There was no attack on my part [on the Mondial]. On the contrary, I am defending it … but I also have the right to say what is wrong.”

The four co-chairs of the MPP remained committed to their decision. The Mondial was dead. End of story.

A few months after the Mondial was cancelled, a new group was organized to create a replacement for it. The Association de Gestion Sportive Millavoise (AGSM) was created in order to host a Festival International de Pétanque Évenement de Millau (FIPEM)(www.petanquemillau.com). In 2016, only 500 players participated in the festival. The festival acquired new organizers, who managed to recruit more volunteers and to partner with a local petanque club, Pétanque Club Joyeuse Millau. When the second Festival was held in August 2017, most of the competitions were limited to 512 teams, which (for triples) means a total participation of about 1500 players. (I don’t have the actual participation numbers.)

The new festival has adopted the city’s proposals for traffic and parking management. “Free shuttles will run between La Victoire Park and the free car parks which will be at your disposal a few minutes from La Victoire Park. No parking will be tolerated near the entrance of the Park.”


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✋Working on your form: torso torque

A throwing form that allows you to throw effectively is something that you can work on. In this post we look at one aspect of effective form— torso torque. The expression refers to the way a shooter twists his torso while throwing. (See Byron Putman: Pétanque: The Greatest Game You Never Heard Of (pp. 82-85)— highly recommended.)

When you watch world-class shooters you will often see this…

  • Before the player starts his backswing, he is basically standing upright, with shoulders level and chest facing forward toward the target.
     
  • As the player begin his backswing, he leans forward slightly— this allows for a higher backswing. His throwing shoulder drops a little and moves backward, causing his torso to twist backward slightly. At the same time, his non-throwing arm starts to move backward so that at the height of the backswing both arms are raised behind his back, balancing each other.
     
  • The player begins his throw. During the throw, his throwing shoulder dips slightly, so that during the throw it moves forward gracefully in a shallow U-shaped dip. At the same time, his torso starts to untwist, so that at the end of the follow-through his throwing shoulder is in front of his body. At this point his posture is “open”— an observer standing to his non-throwing side can see the front of his chest, as in this photo of Marco Foyot. (For more pictures, see How to throw a boule.)

Here is a sequence of clips from the Youtube video of Ledantec shooting during the final of the Masters de Petanque 2004.

Pre-throw.

Start of backswing.

Continuing backswing. Player leans forward slightly. Non-throwing arm starts to swing back.

Approaching full backswing. Non-throwing arm is as high a throwing arm.

At the height of the backswing and just beginning the swing. The throwing shoulder is just starting to drop lower than the non-throwing shoulder.

Throwing shoulder approaches bottom of U-shaped dip. Note the angled slope of the shoulders. Torso has started to untwist. Note that non-throwing arm has continued to move backward, balancing the throw.

Almost ready to release the boule. Torso is almost fully untwisted as throwing shoulder moves forward.

Release of the boule. Throwing shoulder is starting to rise after the lowest point of the U-shaped dip. Note that non-throwing arm remains behind the back, counter-balancing the throwing arm which is now in front of the body.

After release. Torso is fully untwisted. Throwing shoulder is almost finished rising at the end of the U-shaped dip.

Here is the whole sequence as a slideshow.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Almost all of the great shooters (to a greater or lesser degree) demonstrate this ideal form of torso torque. And you will see it (again, to a greater or lesser degree) in pointers as well as in shooters.

Why do players move this way when they throw? Byron Putman calls it “torso torque” because he thinks it is a way for a player to use torso rotation to add power to his throw. Personally, I find that the motion of my body is more natural, and my accuracy is greater, when I twist my torso and bring my throwing arm forward while throwing. I suspect that shoulder anatomy is coming into play here, but I don’t know enough anatomy to be able to say exactly what is happening.

Note that when referring to a player (of unspecified gender), I use “he” and “his” as abbreviations for “he or she” and “his or her”.


How NOT to fly with boules

With the Petanque Amelia Island Open coming up next month, and players from all over the world planning to fly to the event, the following news item is worth noting.

For a long time we’ve warned players not to put their boules in their carry-on luggage when they fly. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers consider boules to be dangerous objects (like hammers) and will not allow them to be carried onto a plane in carry-on luggage.

The other issue is that, to a TSA officer who has never heard of petanque, a boule looks like nothing so much as the stereotypical image of an anarchist bomb.

That was emphasized today when a 63-year-old petanque player from Jersy (in the UK) attempted to fly to a competition in Denmark with his boules bag. The bag contained, along with his team uniform and his set of personalized boules, a phone changer and its cord, some kind of white electronic device (perhaps a voltage converter to go along with the cell-phone charger), and (something that older and arthritic players will immediately recognize and sympathize with) three containers of Biofreeze.


The Jersey TSA officers thought that the assemblage looked like a collection of bomb-making parts. They seized the bag. Since the player was an experienced veteran, I think that the bag must have been in his checked (not carry-on) luggage, but the bag was seized anyway. The player had to fly on to the competition without his bag. He played in a borrowed uniform, with borrowed boules, but didn’t play up to his usual level. His bag finally caught up with him, but too late for it to make a difference.

Apparently most players at the competition found the story amusing, but there is a serious lesson here. The TSA is (rightly) paranoid about containers that contain any kind of liquid. Electrical timers and wires are stereotypical parts of a bomb. (“Should I cut the red wire or the blue?!”) TSA officers must process a lot of bags quickly— they don’t have time to stop and carefully analyze something that on quick inspection looks like it might be suspicious. So they just act.

For petanque players the moral of the story is—
When flying to a competition:
(a) put your boules in your checked (not carry-on) luggage, but also
(b) in the same bag, don’t put anything that contains liquid, looks even vaguely “electronic”, or has wires.


Unboxing Obut order from PetanqueAmerica

I ordered some jacks, an umpire’s folding ruler, and a set of the new Obut stainless steel leisure boules from Petanque America.

jacks
The first item in the order was several orange Obut jacks. I’d seen the orange jacks on Youtube videos and the color seemed to be easy to see. I’d describe the color as matte (not glossy) flourescent orange.

umpire’s folding ruler
The second item in the order was the Obut fiberglass folding umpire’s ruler. The best way to compare distances is with a folding ruler with an extension. I’d been using a carpenter’s ruler; it worked well but the shortest length it could compare (between boule and jack) was about 18cm. The segments of the umpire’s ruler are shorter (10cm) and it can compare lengths as short as 11.5cm. It is marked with numbers on only one side; the reverse side is blank. The extension isn’t loose in the channel and it doesn’t bind; it has a smooth action and I’m looking forward to using it.
Click below to see larger images.

boules
The third item in the order was a set of the new Obut stainless steel leisure boules. I was interested in getting a set because I was under the impression that the new Obut stainless steel leisure boules are smaller and lighter than Obut’s previous line of chromed carbon steel leisure boules.

The boules came in a nice cardboard box, similar to the box used to package competition boules. The box described itself as a “ready to petanque” set, and in the box, in addition to the three boules, I found an Obut jack (varnished but not painted) and a light cloth bag for carrying the boules.
Click below to see larger images.

The boules themselves consistently measure very close to 73mm in diameter (vs 74mm for the old chromed boules) so they are a bit smaller than the old chromed boules. The old chromed boules averaged about 625g per boule. The new stainless steel boules average about 650g per boule, putting them in the valid range for competition boules.


More exploding boules

We’ve blogged before about exploding leisure boules, but until now no-one has been killed or seriously injured by such an explosion. Today, however, a Thai newspaper reports that a player in Thailand has been killed by an exploding petanque boule. The story is rather bizarre.

Apparently some Thai players believe that soaking boules in water and then heating them can somehow improve a player’s ability to put spin on the boules. In preparation for an after-work game with his buddies, a firefighter named Decho Phetchnin had been heating his set of 3 boules on an “Ang Lo” burner for about two hours when one of the boules exploded, blowing the burner apart and scattering debris in a 10-metre radius. The explosion occurred while Decho was bending over the burner stirring the boules. A metal fragment from the exploded boule struck Decho in the forehead, piercing his skull and killing him instantly.

The photo that accompanies the story looks like the boule might have been a leisure boule (rather than a competition boule), although it’s hard to be sure. The dust visible in the picture suggests that the boule (like many cheap leisure boules) was filled with sand.
CLICK for a larger image


Mondial des Volcans

It is summer, which means that it is time for international petanque tournaments in France, including the Mondial des Volcans.

The Mondial des Volcans is held in the city of Clermont-Ferrand, the capital of the Puy-de-Dôme département. Geologically, it is located in the Massif Central, a high plateau surrounded by a chain of dormant volcanic mountains, the Chaîne des Puys, for which it is famous. Hence the name: Mondial des Volcans.

The man behind the Mondial is Fabrice Bouche. As a young man he loved sports, played football, discovered boule lyonnaise, and eventually discovered petanque. He was chairman of the Puy-de-Dôme Committee of the FFPJP from 1998 until 2008, during which time he organized several major tournaments in Clermont-Ferrand and founded the Clermont Pétanque Auvergne club. On behalf of Clermont Pétanque Auvergne, he organized the first Mondial des Volcans in 2013. This year, 2017, it is five years old.

Bouche has a grand vision for the Mondial— “Today there is La Marseillaise in early July, the Mondial de Millau the week of August 15. And there will be the Mondial des Volcans the first week of August.” William Dauphant, a talented young French player and one of the sponsors of the Mondial, speaks of an “initiative to create a third event in the French boulistique landscape.”

My impression is that the Mondial des Volcans might have a vibe a bit like the Amelia Island Open— the videos seem to show players of all skill levels, with a sprinkling of really world-class players. It is much bigger than the Amelia Island Open: several thousand players. Apparently there are seven venues, including a couple of big ones— an indoor boulodrome (temporarily displacing the basketball court) in the Maison des Sports, and an outdoor boulodrome at the Place des Bughes.

Unlike the Petanque America Open, but like most French tournaments, it is single-elimination. There seem to be four or five different tournaments: singles, doubles, women’s doubles, veteran’s doubles, and men’s triples.

It is the French version of an open tournament, which is to say: if you are an “occasional player” (i.e. not a member of the FFPJP), you can buy a day license (basically, a one-day FFPJP membership,une licence à la journée) for 15 euros on the first day of the tournament. A medical certificate will be provided free by the Mondial’s doctor.

Mondial des Volcans 2013 — photo by Jacpetanque (Jac Verheul)

For more information, see the Mondial’s web site and its Facebook page. There are also a few (not many) YouTube videos. For a couple of nice photos of the first Mondial, look HERE.


Shooting practice with a wiffle baseball

Here is an easy and inexpensive way to make a very effective target for shooting practice.

  • Buy a 5- or 6-foot length of light bungee cord (elastic cord) at your local hardware store. (Lightly melt the ends with a match or soldering iron to keep the ends from fraying.)
  • On your practice area, lay out the bungee cord in the same way that you would lay out boundary strings for a marked terrain, stringing it between nails driven into the ground. Pull the bungee cord tight enough to keep it straight, but don’t stretch it.
  • Buy a wiffle ball (baseball size, not softball size). Mine cost $2.50.
  • Use some string to tie the wiffle ball to the middle of the bungee cord.

That’s it. You’re ready to start your shooting practice. You can see that the wiffle baseball is almost exactly the same size as a petanque boule. Here’s a short Youtube video that shows how the wiffle ball acts when hit.

You can do the same thing with a real boule, but it is more difficult to do, and I personnally think it is quite clumsy compared to a wiffle ball.