To coincide with the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, the Musée Clemenceau will present its new focus-exhibition entitled Clemenceau and Sports from April 16 to August 14, 2024. Georges Clemenceau loved sports. Who would have thought! This new exhibition will evoke the “Tiger’s” taste for hunting and long hikes, as well as horseback riding, swordsmanship, cycling, gymnastics and shooting.


Born after the emergence of the hygienist movement, Clemenceau (1841-1929), a physician by training, attached great importance to good bodily health and considered physical exercise indispensable to intellectual development. As Jean-Noël Jeanneney, President of the Fondation le Musée Clemenceau, points out,

“Clemenceau inherited this conviction from his father: the old saying mens sana in corpore sano would be one of his rules of life.  He was constantly faithful to it, as shown by Georges Vigarello, prestigious historian of sport, social trends and bodies, and curator of this exhibition.”

Responsive to the birth of modern sport, Clemenceau encouraged the creation of federations (USFA (Union of French Athletic Sports Societies), the Centre-Ouest Soccer League, …) and responded to Paschal Grousset’s call for the creation of the Ligue nationale de l’éducation physique (1888) for education.

A passionate admirer of Greece, Clemenceau wrote about Olympia:

“Twenty times I went to Olympia, twenty times! Ah! Olympia! The amphitheater… You have before you this thing… and if you scuff at the ground with your feet, you see the white stripe that marked the start of the runners, and if you feel nothing, it is because you are made of wood…”


Not surprisingly, he encouraged the Olympic Games when he came to power: first, in 1908, he released funds to finance the French delegation’s stay in London, and then, in 1919, he strongly encouraged Paris to bid for the 1924 Olympic Games.

And practice became theory! In his journal Le Bloc, Clemenceau wrote about the benefits of cycling on both thought and social progress, in his article “Sports philosophy”:

“There’s no denying that the bicycle has liberated us. Through the bicycle, city inhabitants working desperately with no open space and no light can spring from the circle that imprisons them to go and see something else.”

Le Bloc, 1 September 1901


The exhibition showcases the diversity of Clemenceau’s physical activities. As a child, his father introduced him to hunting, shooting, horseback riding and fencing, arts in which he excelled. A hunter not motivated by prizes, he preferred long walks in nature.

He left for the United States after medical school and, among other things, taught horseback riding at a girls’ school. Later, he collaborated with the British horseman and riding master James Fillis (1834-1913) in drafting a treatise on dressage (Principes de dressage et d’équitation, Flammarion, 1890). At the same time, without abandoning horses, Clemenceau discovered a new means of transport that was as sporty as it was enjoyable: velocipedes. Exhilarated by the speed of his “wild bicycle,” intoxicated by fresh air and complete freedom, he traveled around Paris and Normandy.

A politician and journalist, he frequented fencing clubs and practiced dueling. His eloquence was as feared as his sword thrusts: “Clemenceau’s word is stark, forged, sharpened like a foil. His speeches resemble fencing: he targets the opponent with straight strokes. In 1900, due to his health problems and a tendency to gain weight, Clemenceau had to undertake morning gymnastics with a sport coach six days a week.

He continued these lessons until his final days, as attested by the final receipt prepared by his teacher (exhibited here for the first time). This regular activity would helped maintain exceptional physical and moral energy, especially during the First World War.


The focus-exhibition has been awarded label “Olympiade Culturelle.”

Exhibition Curator: Georges Vigarello, historian

Dates: April 16 to August 14, 2024


Translation of texts by Lauren Breiter master’s student Montclair State University (New Jersey) in association with the Clemenceau Museum

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