French swim into hot water with synchronised Holocaust

For most people, synchronised swimming is an innocuous sport, which involves young women gesticulating and smiling madly in the middle of a swimming pool. But now, the French Olympic team have brought a darker side to the sport with a move which has caused outrage in France.

Of all the themes they could have chosen for their Olympic programme, they have rather controversially plumped for the Holocaust. For four minutes in an Atlanta pool this summer, they will act out a routine, which depicts the rise of Nazism and the horrors of the Second World War.

Fortunately, the eight swimmers on the national team will not be donning either Hitlerian moustaches or jack boots. Nor will they be goose-stepping around the edge of the Olympic pool. They will however be re-enacting the arrival of Jews in concentration camps to songs from the ghettos and the theme music of Schindler's List.

"I chose this theme because it allows us to convey emotions," says national trainer, Odile Petit. "After all, our sport is one of expression." However, even the president of the French Swimming Federation, Francis Luyce, acknowledges that he was "a bit surprised" when he first saw the programme at the French Championships in Amiens in March. "I heard a few comments from the audience which showed the programme was not unanimously appreciated," he said. "I understand that this is a sensitive subject, but it is not meant to be a provocation."

Naturally, the idea of an aquatic Shoah has not gone down well with everyone. One spectator was led to express his "profound revolt" after watching the programme. "How great was my amazement when I discovered half a dozen young girls wearing caps and nosepegs, swimming around in the sweet blue water of a swimming pool, simulating the sorting out of deportees as they got off trains at the entrance to Nazi camps," he wrote to the French Swimming Federation. "You have accomplished the most advanced act of desacralisation."

Ms Petit does not see what all the fuss is about.

"The Duchesnays skated a programme which represented torture in Chile," she said of the French skating stars. "This theme is closer to us and affects us more. Our message is an appeal to fight against racism. If we had chosen to evoke the circus, there would have been no problem, but we would not have been able to express ourselves with so much force."

Two weeks ago at the European Cup, the French beat the Russians for the first time in seven years.

The theme has not upsetjudges. This may be because the audience did not understand what was going on. "The symbols are not obvious to understand," admits Ms Petit. "Swimmers who were not aware of the theme did not know what it was about." Maybe it's not that expressive after all.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk