REPORTING. In Grenoble, the 1968 Olympics left their mark on the territory, but the memory is fading

REPORTING. In Grenoble, the 1968 Olympics left their mark on the territory, but the memory is fading
REPORTING. In Grenoble, the 1968 Olympics left their mark on the territory, but the memory is fading

“What are you taking a picture of?” There is nothing written! » Behind the Olympic cauldron of Grenoble, a steel statue of 550 kg, 4 meters in diameter, located on the edge of the green Paul Mistral Park, Gilles Grindler calls out to the curious. Some passers-by take a look at the plaque, placed at the foot of the sculpture, while others photograph the work. “If you stand to the side, you will be able to guess the raised letters”, he confides not without a yellow laugh. The legend has faded over time, but we can guess the text: « Basin of Xe Grenoble Winter Olympic Games, February 6 to 19, 1968 ».

Dressed in Olympic colors from head to toe – a navy suit jacket adorned with pins, including a Shuss, the official mascot of the 1968 Olympics, a white cap with the Olympic rings on the skull – Gilles Grindler does not mask his frustration in front of this inscription disappeared. “A lady told me last time that she was meeting a friend of 30 years in front of the fountain… It’s not a fountain, it’s THE Olympic cauldron! »plagues the president of COLJOG (Conservatory, Observatory, Laboratory, of the Grenoble Olympic Games), an association whose aim is “knowledge, sharing and saving the Olympic heritage”.

The Capital of the Alps, with approximately 156,000 inhabitants today, indeed hosted the great sporting event 56 years ago. On February 6, 1968, General de Gaulle opened the Games in front of 70,000 people. A competition broadcast for the first time in color on television. “ In Grenoble, we are very proud of this Olympic heritage, assures Margot Belair, deputy mayor (EELV) in charge of town planning in the city. Everything remains, even if things have been transformed or found other uses. But we do not always have the means to rehabilitate this equipment. »

The “basin – fountain” is an unfortunate example, which, without signage, falls into oblivion. Just like the “Olympic Column”, located at the northern entrance to the city. “Almost everyone doesn’t know what it is, regrets Olivier Cogne, historian and director of the Dauphinois Museum. This monument alone symbolizes a form of amnesia in relation to this event, while we have a rich heritage to promote.”

“The biggest change in Isère”

At the time, however, Grenoble and the Isère region were shocked by the Olympic experience. It was Albert Michallon, mayor of the city (1959-1965) who won this candidacy in 1964. In March 1965, his team was beaten by that of Hubert Dubedout in the municipal elections. The elected official does not view the reception of the Olympics so favorably, but ends up giving in, giving it a strong cultural dimension. The city is experiencing a very strong demographic boom and is very attractive, but it suffers from a lack of infrastructure.

€1 billion 100 is invested in this project, 80% of which comes from the State. 10% is allocated to sport, the rest to the construction of the ring road, the motorway between Grenoble and Lyon, the train station, the town hall, the police headquarters, the links between Grenoble and the ski resorts… major roads and buildings which have lost nothing of their use today. “This event caused the greatest change in terms of developments for Isère in the 20th century”says Olivier Cogne. “We cannot understand the town planning of Grenoble without talking about the Olympics, agrees Margot Bélair. The Games structured the city as it is still thought of today. »

In just two years, Grenoble went from a landlocked city, stuck in the mountains, to a city…

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