The president of France's Olympic Committee resigned unexpectedly on Thursday, the latest leadership shake up of French sports amid preparations for the Summer Olympics in Paris next year.
Brigitte Henriques, a former soccer player on the French national team, was the first woman to lead Olympic sports in France. Her abrupt departure follows a period of intense infighting in French Olympic circles and prompted calls from Paris 2024 organizers for sports leaders to set differences aside and focus on delivering the Games.
“The Games come around once every hundred years in our country: The sports movement must show up,” organizing committee president Tony Estanguet said in a statement.
France's sports minister, Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, said: “There is no winner today.”
She urged French Olympic leaders to unite and focus on the Games, calling them “our main objective.”
The French Olympic Committee said Henriques announced at the start of a general assembly meeting on Thursday that she was stepping down. The committee statement did not give her reasons but said she explained them to the meeting's attendees. She'd occupied the role since June 2021.
With the Paris Games less than 430 days away, the sudden void at the top of French Olympic sports will be temporarily filled by the Olympic committee secretary general Astrid Guyart. She will oversee the election process for a new president within three months, the committee said.
As head of France's Olympic Committee, Henriques was directly involved in the massive, complex and costly preparations for the 2024 Games, sitting as a member of the board of directors of the Paris organizing committee led by its president, Estanguet. As French Olympic Committee secretary, the new interim president, Guyart, was already a member of the Paris 2024 board, too.
While French sports have triumphed on the fields of play, led notably by victory in the 2018 football World Cup, they've been rocked by multiple leadership changes in the run-up to the Paris Games.
Noël Le Graët resigned as president of the French Football Federation in February after a government audit found he no longer had the legitimacy to lead because of his behavior toward women and his management style.
Bernard Laporte resigned as president of the French Rugby Federation in January after he was convicted of corruption and illegally acquiring assets and handed a suspended prison sentence.
Last October, Claude Atcher was fired as chief executive of the Rugby World Cup that opens in France in September, and which also will serve as a test of France's security preparations for the Olympics. Atcher's removal followed an investigation by French labor inspectors into his workplace conduct.