France is such a fascinating place. Such an amazing centre for haute couture, cuisine, fabuleux vin. However when it comes to logistics and development there always seems to be an issue. France gets caught up in red tape, things take too long to progress which leads to frustration and cost blowouts. So often progress is stymied these days where the words liberté, égalité, fraternité often don’t ring true with development.
If they tried to build the Eiffel Tower now, it would probably take longer than the still incomplete Segrada Familia in Barcelona. Discussions are sent from one council to another, from one committee to another.
They say a camel is a horse designed by a committee; these people can’t make a decision and the so-called officials that make decisions on development plans are officious.
Roland Garros, the site of the French Open, is caught up in such a whirlwind. After being one of the most progressive events in the world when the late president Philippe Chatrier took it to an amazing level, the French Tennis Federation has been caught in a bog with planning authorities who appear blinded to the importance of progress and keeping pace with the rest of the world.
The French Open is being outstripped by other events as members at the Council of State just sit back and drag their feet. We know red clay is the slowest of surfaces but these people are stuck in the clay. It is obvious they have no sense of understanding but that appears to be the norm and common practice when it comes to development and progress in France.
Tournament Director Guy Forget is pulling out what hair he has left, especially when he can see the US Open, the latest major to get a roof had its roof built in two years.
“Welcome to France,” Forget said with a smirk. “You know the circumstances as well as I do. The red tape in France. It's a process. We play by the rules. We asked for planning permission a long time ago. All we can do is monitor the situation and follow the due process.
“This is why we have asked the players to state their positions and their opinion about the construction, and it's great to see that they are all in favour. All of them struck a pose with a hard hat under their arm, and they want the project to move forward as quickly as possible. It's not the case yet.
“(So) why don't you ask this question to the French president? Quite honestly, it's a joke that's in bad taste, because the presidency, the mayor of Paris, the prime minister are supportive of the project. Policymakers are standing behind us. There may be a minority who are opposed and who are blocking the process of construction. So we are standing by.
“In other countries things are quicker.”
The rain on the first two days of the French Open was a nightmare. It is the only one of the four majors not to have a roof over its “court centrale”. It is a joke. The Australian Open is the most progressive with three courts having retractable roofs.
If construction for the roof on Court Philippe Chatrier goes ahead now the earliest it would be ready is the next decade as explained by Forget. That is ridiculous in this day and age. The French Open lags way behind. Let’s be clear to emphasise, it is not the FFT that is the problem, it is the local government authorities; those bureaucrats who are carried away with their own importance.
“We wait and wait and wait and wait. While Wimbledon, Melbourne, and New York now have the new roof, we'll have to wait until 2020 to have ours,” Forget said. “Although we have talked about it. We need to modernize our facility for these reasons. It's a necessity.”
Till then it is a matter of, as Forget said, waiting till the Conseil d’Etat meets in September with further decisions.