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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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.


Throwing to select teams

In a melée tournament (as opposed to a “select” tournament), individual players enter and are grouped into teams using some random selection method. One traditional technique for creating melée teams is to “throw” for teams. (For others, see our page on selecting teams for a melée.)


The process begins with someone (the club president, for example) assuming the role of competition organizer. He (or she) takes a head count of the number of members wishing to play.

On the basis of the count, he decides what kinds of teams are needed. Suppose, for example, that there are 14 players, and 3 pistes are available. Three pistes can accommodate three games — 6 teams — playing at the same time. Therefore, he needs to form 6 teams. So he might decide to organize four teams of two players and two teams of three players.

The players line up. The organizer places a jack in front of the players at some random distance, say eight to ten meters. Then, on the organizer’s count of “one… two… THREE!” everyone throws (points) their boules at the jack.

throwing_for_team_selection_01

The competition organizer then goes through the boules and assigns them to teams — the closest boule to team 1, the second closest boule to team 2, and so on.

The process works best when you have two people doing the organizing. One person selects the boules in order of their distance from the jack. He/she picks them up in order, and hands or rolls them to the second person, who arranges them into teams in the order in which he gets them.

In the photo below, Ronnie (the lady in the dark shirt) has laid out the boules of the six players from (her) right to left, to form the basis of six teams. Note that the boules are grouped into pairs. The pairing indicates which teams will play each other in the first round of games.

throwing_for_team_selection_02

The rest of the boules in turn, from closest to farthest, are added to the teams.

throwing_for_team_selection_03


The photo below is from a different meeting of the club, which was attended by 19 people. The organizer has decided to set up eight teams — five 2-person teams and three 3-person teams.

In the first round of games, team 5 (in which 2 players use 3 boules each) will play team 6 (in which 3 players use 2 boules each). If there are players that arrive later, they will be added (between games, or between ends) to one of the two-person teams.

throwing_for_team_selection_04


After the boules have been grouped into teams, each player picks up his own boule and finds out who his team-mate(s) will be.

To start the event, team 1 plays team 2, team 3 plays team 4, team 5 plays team 6, and so on. After that, as the various games finish, winners play winners and losers play losers.

throwing_for_team_selection_05

A possible variation of this technique (used by the Washington DC National Capitol Club de Petanque, where these pictures were taken in September 2013) is to conduct two separate throws. First there is a throw for the recognized shooters in the club. Then there is a second throw for everybody else. In a club with a wide variety of skill levels among the members, this helps to distribute the shooters more or less randomly among the teams.


Here is the London Petanque Club choosing teams via a melee, July 2014. You can watch it on YouTube HERE.

The London Petanque Club choosing teams via a melee.

WallaWallaPetanqueClubTossesForTeams

Walla Walla Petanque Club throwing for teams in December 2014

Throwing for teams in Adelaide, Australia

Throwing for teams in Adelaide, Australia