France has launched a new high-performance plan ©ANS

France has launched a new high-performance plan called Ambition Bleue, or "Blue Ambition".

The aim is to transform elite sport in the country, which is scheduled to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

According to the National Sports Agency, around 400 French athletes are expected to join a "High Performance Circle", and to benefit from enhanced levels of support.

It is hoped performance levels can advance to the point where France can secure a top-five spot in the medals table.

At the last Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, the French team’s tally of 10 gold medals and 42 medals in total secured them seventh place.

The team finished 12th in the Paralympic medals table, with 28 in total of which nine were gold.

A stylish 94-page brochure sets out a variety of means through which it is hoped that French performance can be improved.

These include better harnessing French science and mimicking other rich nations by setting up a Performance House on the ground at future Games, close to the Athletes' Village.

At Tokyo 2020, this will be in premises of the University of Tokyo’s Shibaura Institute of Technology.

It is hoped the new plan will help France secure a top-five spot on the medals table at Paris 2024 ©Getty Images
It is hoped the new plan will help France secure a top-five spot on the medals table at Paris 2024 ©Getty Images

One of the most interesting sections of the new document compares high-performance programmes in other comparable countries - the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands.

The information compiled appears to show that available resources in the four larger countries, including France, are broadly comparable, at between €104 million (£92.5 million/$120 million) and €115 million (£102 million/$132 million) a year.

The equivalent figure in the Netherlands is put at €53 million (£47 million/$61 million), but the Dutch economy is said to be one-third the size of the French.

"It is interesting to note,” the document goes on, "that the UK and the Netherlands – with similar or smaller budgets – have achieved the most spectacular progress in the Olympic medals table and the quantity of medals won at World Championships".

These two countries, the report continues, "decided to concentrate their financial resources the most on just a few federations, or just a few disciplines in the case of the Netherlands".

More than 50 per cent of elite sport body UK Sport’s funding to prepare for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics goes to just five sports – rowing, athletics, cycling, sailing and aquatics – the report states.

In the Netherlands, six federations split 50 per cent of available funding.

In France, the division between sports shows more égalité, with 10 federations required to reach 50 per cent of available funding.

According to Claude Onesta, general manager of high performance, the agency has been working on its transformation project for 18 months.

The first transformation effected, Onesta says, has been on the high-performance arm of the agency itself, with a very flat internal organisation put in place, and no hierarchy.

"By eliminating middle management, the team opens itself up to collective intelligence through the creativity of its members," he argues.

"Improvement of the results obtained by French sport will stem from making consequential changes in its model."