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From Barcelona to Paris via Argentan, Olympic Games that keep the flame alive

Laurent Launay and Ivonne Pey met at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. ©JO

In Argentan (Orne), Laurent Launay and Ivonne Pey are linked since 1992. It is within the framework of Barcelona Olympics that the couple met.

Table tennis as a meeting point

After being hired by the Olympic Committee Barcelona 92 as an interpreter English SpanishIvonne Pey, born in the Catalan city, was keen to participate in what would seem to be a great moment of celebration for the whole country.

At the same time, Laurent Launay had been him coach of the French Handisport team.

From the age of 12, Laurent Launay was already playing table tennis. Then one day, during a competition, one of his opponents was handicapped, Roland Lesueur.

It was, it seems to me, in 1985. We got on well and he told me that he had never had a coach. The next week, I started training him.

Laurent Launay, sporting director of Bayard Argentan.

This same person became, in 1990, disabled world champion.

It was at the European Table Tennis Championships in 1991 (test event for the 92 Olympics) more precisely that the future couple met.

At the beginning, we communicated in English then, over time, we started to speak in French

Ivonne Pey, former performer at the Barcelona Olympics.

Indeed, after having obtained a bac+5 in English and having passed one year in the United States where she learned a little French, she was able to apply her knowledge of the language to chat with the table tennis coach.

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Tracksuit from the 1992 Olympics.
1992 Olympic Games tracksuit. ©JO


For these two Argentineans, Barcelona was their meeting point. They both lived highlights the low.

For Laurent Launay, what moved him the most was during a judo test.

I practiced judo in competition and? during one of the events in Barcelona, ​​I saw in the stands the Japanese Yasuhiro Yamashita, the world star of my youth. It was the Teddy Riner of the time. It was amazing.

Laurent Launay, sporting director of Bayard Argentan.

“And what impressed me the most was the men’s doubles semi-finals in badminton,” he continues.

Ivonne Pey, for her part, devoted herself to logistics and to relationships with the sports delegations.

Before Barcelona 1992, I didn’t really feel concerned with sport. The Olympic and Paralympic Games made me discover a multitude of sporting disciplines far removed from the dance that I practiced from a very young age.

Ivonne Pey, former performer at the Barcelona Olympics.

The couple’s relationship to this international competition is unique. “There is this side unlikely and magical “, they say.

“It’s thanks to this meeting that I learned Catalan and Spanish, 2 languages ​​that I knew absolutely nothing at that time”, recalls Laurent.

Paris 2024, a symbol

Photos, leaflets and even entry tickets to sporting events are present in the exhibition.
Photos, leaflets and entry tickets to sporting events are present in the exhibition. ©JO

For them, the 2024 Olympics are going to be important. “In 1992 it was just huge for Barcelona. With the years of preparations, everyone was fully engaged. Games, it changes a city. There was a almost unanimous support population to host this event,” recalls Ivonne.

However, she does not know if it will be the same for the Paris Games.

I don’t know the Parisians well enough to know if they will be in the same atmosphere as the Barcelonans 30 years ago.

Ivonne Pey, former performer at the Barcelona Olympics.

A personal exhibition

The exhibition that will be accessible until August 31 at the Argentan Tourist Office, belongs almost entirely to them.

When I was working there, I got gifts from the Olympic Committee. We also, Laurent and I, kept lots of objects and newspaper articles from the Barcelona games.

Ivonne Pey, former performer at the Barcelona Olympics.

Almost everything is theirs…even the torch because Ivonne carried it during the path of the flame. “Many people think that there is only one Olympic torch, but no, there is only one Olympic flame which is transmitted by the torch bearers”, they explain.

A mobile exhibition?

To the question “Will the exhibition be mobile later on? “, the two Argentanians have the same answer.

We think it would be nice if she could move from town to town, but we’re waiting to see if people ask us.

Ivonne Pey and Laurent Launay.

Yannick Jouadé, assistant to the attractiveness of the city, sport and culture does not exclude a potential mobility of the work after its passage to Argentan.

I will propose to the mayor of Argentan and president of the intercommunality Frédéric Leveillé, to bring the exhibition to other small villages in the territory.

Yannick Jouadé, assistant for the attractiveness of the city, sport and culture.

“We have to see if it can continue to exist to make Argentan shine as a Land of Games 2024. It would be a shame for this exhibition to return to a closet”, he adds.

Medals from the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona.
Medals from the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. ©JO

“Argentan, land of games 2024”

For Laurent Launay, obtaining this label is a real honor.

It is a pride and a joy. Whether it’s for the city, for the clubs or for the people of Argentina, we must ensure that everyone benefits.

Laurent Launay, sporting director of Bayard Argentan.

“The city is also an Olympic preparation center for sports shooting and table tennis”.

In Argentan, table tennis has possible future great champions. But for a possible participation for Paris 2024, that will be too fair.

“But for 2028, we have the right to dream,” concludes Laurent Launay.

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