Breaking News
More () »

Excitement grows among Knoxville's French community as countdown to 2024 Paris Olympics continues

People in Knoxville with personal ties to France said they are excited for the world to learn more about French culture.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The countdown is on for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France! Saturday will mark eleven months until some of the best athletes from across the world meet at the European country to compete in the biggest stage in sports.

Excitement has started building up in Knoxville, especially for those with personal ties to France. That is the case for Melanie LaFoy.

Cooking has always been one of LaFoy's biggest passions.

"If there is going to be cooking involved it is going to be me that does it," she added. 

Her second love is for French culture. Her family is originally from Bordeaux in Western France. Aside from that, she moved to France to teach English after getting a master's degree from the University of Tennessee.

So it is only fitting that she mixed the two to create Potluck Café. Now she brings some French charm to North Knoxville.

"I guess it is a Southern United States-French fusion thing," she commented. "Adding the French flair with making quiche dishes or pain perdu, which is French toast."

Anne-Helene Miller was born in Southwest France and now serves as chair for the French department at the UT. Her research takes her to France constantly and she said the French have been waiting to host the Olympics for years.

"I do not know if people realize, but France has been a candidate, and Paris in particular, several times lately and they did not get it," she added.

France was actually the second country to ever host the games back in 1900. 24 years later, Paris hosted the 1924 Olympics. Since then, Paris has lost three bids to host the Olympic Games. In 1992 it lost to Barcelona; in 2008 it came in third place behind Beijing and Toronto; and in 2012 it lost the chance to London by just four votes.

But now, in 11 months the European country will get to do it once again exactly 100 years after it last hosted it.

"It is really special," Miller commented. "I also know that they have been making changes in Paris. I was there lately and you can see the excitement in the air and what they do."

The professor of French recalled the country is not necessarily preparing for the Olympics by building more infrastructure, but by facilitating more green spaces to make the city more pedestrian and bike-friendly.

Both Miller and LaFoy said they are excited to see their homeland hosting the Summer Olympics again. 

"I think after Notre Dame burned, and there has been a lot of terrorist attacks there over the years, and I just feel like it will sort of make people excited about Paris again," LaFoy mentioned.

They both agreed this will give France a chance to show the world what is beneath the surface.

"I think it will be an opportunity also to discover that there is a lot of wonderful, beautiful places to see outside of Paris," Miller added. "I think it is going to also be exciting to see how our students react studying the language or the culture here are UT and want to go even more to Paris next summer."

LaFoy, on the other hand, touted the country's multicultural nature.

"What I really hope is that people see not just the pristine baguette, Eiffel Tower culture of France," she said. "I hope they see what is underneath, the more multicultural culture that exists in France. I feel like people do not initially think of that when they think of French culture. I hope this helps to make those people more visible and those cultures more visible."

The 2024 Summer Olympics kick off on July 26, 2024, in Paris, France.

Before You Leave, Check This Out