Last Thursday evening in Paris (May 15), precisely 100 days to go until the opening ceremony of the 9th IAAF World Championships in Athletics (23-31 August 2003), the Local Organising Committee, honored by the presence of Prince Albert of Monaco, unveiled the competition’s official poster.
We learnt then that the back profile of Maria Joelle Conjungo, a 27-year-old hurdler who lives and works in Paris, and represents the Central African Republic in international events, but also possesses joint French nationality, will be the promotional ‘face’ of the World Championships..
Other than her Athletic and Parisian roots, this choice is also logical since her birthday falls on 14 July, France’s national holiday.
Yet, curiously, this poster was not originally meant to be the official image of the Paris World Championships, and it was only because of a visionary book published in collaboration with Gaz de France, who are the title sponsor of the Paris Saint-Denis Golden League meeting (4 July) and an official national partner for Paris 2003, the French Federation, Paris City Council and RATP, that the image was chosen.
The photography of Conjungo is in fact the cover of a book titled “Femmes Athletes” (Women Athletes) which was conceived by Jean Galfione, the 1996 Olympic Pole Vault champion, and the photographer Vincent Ohl.
“Last December, and early January, I decided to work on a project for a Non Governmental Association called ‘Sports Sans Frontières’ (Sports without Boundaries),” confirmed Galfione, who remains the French record holder in the Pole Vault with a best clearance of 5.98m.
“I know the founder of this association and I thought it was fundamental to work for a good cause.” The money gathered through the sales of this book will be entirely given to this association to help kids living in impoverished countries.”
A few weeks later in January 2003, Christine Arron, Muriel Hurtis, Marie-José Pérec, along with 32 others mainly from the French national team also agreed to take part in this project.
“The cover of the book literally seduced the organizers (of the World Championships),” confesses Galfione with an enthusiastic tone in his voice. “To be associated with a feat such as the World Championships can only help this project.”
A few weeks before the event, some of the pictures featured in the book are also to be projected on the front of the Paris city hall.
Jean Galfione, who has been hampered athletically by several injuries over the past few years, had never foreseen this book would gain such a high profile despite Gaz de France’s involvement with both the Paris Golden League meeting and the World Championships.
“My ambition is really to help through my sport,” he insists. “My second passion is to work with photography and images. This idea was completely independent from the World Championships. It was simply a good way to ally two of my central interests.”
So art and sport are joined, and just as Spain’s World Indoor champion Manuel Martinez sculpts between each Shot Put contest, Jean Galfione now dreams of black and white photography, as well as the Pole Vault runway.