By Duncan Mackay
British Sports Internet Writer of the Year

September 11 - Marie-José Pérec (pictured left), the only French athlete to win three Olympic gold medals, has signed-up to be an official ambassador for Annecy's bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, it was announced today.

Pérec, one of France's most high-profile and controversial athletes, made the announcement at the sixth edition of DecaNation meeting held in Annecy.

"The technical bid currently in preparation and the concept, focussing on Annecy and Chamonix, will provide an ideal living environment for athletes, while setting the scene for outstanding sporting achievements," said Pérec.

"Annecy is truly a land of sport and champions, not only winter sports - that goes without saying! - but also the whole spectrum of sporting disciplines, not least of all athletics, as illustrated by today's DecaNation.

"It is therefore essential for the entire French sports world to pull together behind this French Olympic bid."

Pérec, who won the 400 metres at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona and then the 200m and 400m in Atlanta four years later, was at the centre of one of the biggest controversies in recent Games history.
At the 2000 Olympics in Sydney she fled Australia on the eve of her much-hyped race against Cathy Freeman claiming she had been harassed by the the country's press.

It effectively marked the end of her career but she re-emerged in 2005 as an ambassador for Paris' unsuccessful bid to host the 2012 Olympics, which were awarded to London.

Pérec, who carried the flag for France at the Opening Ceremony of the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, has since worked as a commentator for television channel Eurosport.

Edgar Grospiron, the chief executive of Annecy 2018, was delighted to have secured Pérec's backing.

"Marie-Jo's Olympic achievements are unique in French athletics history," he said.

"Her support, announced on a day when Annecy, with DecaNation, has once again demonstrated its expertise in the hosting of major international sporting competitions, is precious for the Annecy 2018 bid, a bid for athletes, a bid by athletes."

A crowd of more than 11,000 attended this year's DecaNation, where they cheered on the French medallists from the recent European Athletics Championships in Barcelona.

They were led by Christophe Lemaître (pictured centre waving the flag), the European 100m and 200m champion, who is from Annecy and is also an ambassador for the bid.

Even losing in the 100m to America's Mike Rodgers, who ran 10.13 to Lemaître's 10.16, failed to take the shine off the occasion.

"It's a great opportunity and such a pleasure to be able to participate in this competition on my home ground," said Lemaître.

"DecaNation is a competition unlike any other; it embodies strong values such as team spirit and sporting excellence, values inherent in the Olympic movement and no less so in the Annecy 2018 bid.

"Annecy is a unique sporting destination, which provides an ideal natural setting for international sporting competitions."

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