Last modified: 2005-12-24 by ivan sache
Keywords: pyrenees-atlantiques | biarritz | rugby | letter: b (white) | letter: o (red) |
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Biarritz (30,000 inhabitants) was until the middle of the XIXth century a poor fishers' village where the inhabitants of the neighbouring city of Bayonne went for swimming. Spanish nobles were also fond of Biarritz, included Countess of Montijo, who stayed in Biarritz with her daughter Eugenia every summer from 1838 onwards. Eugenia married Emperor Napoléon III and became Empress Eugénie; she convinced her husband to go to Biarritz in 1854. The Emperor enjoyed his stay and ordered the next year the building of Villa Eugénie, today Hôtel du Palais. Since then, Biarritz is one of the poshest sea resorts in France, surrounded by six golf greens.
Ivan Sache, 29 April 2005
Rugby is the main sport in the south-west of France and is played in every town and village on Sunday afternoon. Rugby recently evolved from the "town and villages' rugby" towards a more elitist, professional sport, but is still a great local concern. The two main rugby clubs in Pays Basque represent to the two neighbouring, rival cities of Bayonne (Aviron Bayonnais) and Biarritz (Biarritz Olympique Pays Basque).
Rugby was played for the first time in Biarritz in 1887, when a local team played in a very unformal way against an English team near the lighthouse. M. Hum-Sentoure, Director of the Jules-Ferry school, founded in 1902 a multisports club called Biarritz Stade, with a rugby section. In 1903, the club purchased the Aguiléra stadium, where the team still plays, from a clay pigeon shooting club. Another club named Biarritz Sporting Club was founded in 1909 and played its first international match in Aguiléra against Cardiff-Roseburg (Wales) the same year. In 1913, the Mayor of Biarritz, fed up by the permanent quarrel between the two clubs, decided to merge them into Biarritz Olympique. The new club was incorporated on 26 April 1913. The club won the Basque Coast Championship in 1917 and 1922.
Biarritz was defeated in the final of the French Championship by
Bayonne in 1934 but won two titles in 1935 and 1939, as well as the
French Cup in 1937, against Perpignan. The Catalans took their revenge
in 1938. The main player of that period was the stand-off half Henri
Haget, aka Rico.
After the Second World War, the team of Biarritz and his back rower and later coach Michel Celaya was among the best French teams but did not won any main title but the French Championship of Reserve Teams (1954-1959).
In 1975, Serge Blanco, "the best fullback in the world", started his brilliant career in Biarritz. The 1980 generation included several members of the French national team, such as Serge Blanco, Francis Haget, Jean Condom, Patrice Lagisquet and Pascal Ondarts; Biarritz lost the final of the Yves-du-Manoir Challenge in 1989 and the final of the French Championship against Toulon in 1992, during Serge Blanco's last official match.
Professional rugby was introduced in France in 1998. Biarritz, renamed Biarritz Olympique Pays Basque, won the French Cup in 2000; in 2002, the team, coached by Laurent Rodriguez and Patrice Lagisquet, won the French Championship, 25-22 in final against Agen. Biarritz reached the quarters of the European Cup in 2001 and 2003 and the semifinals in 2004. During the 2004-2005 season, the team of Biarritz includes 14 members of the French national team, for instance Serge Betsen, Imanol Harinordoquy and Damien Traille.
Source: Club website
Supporter's flags of Biarritz Olympique Pays Basque - Images by Ivan Sache, 29 April 2005
The traditional colours of Biarritz Olympique are red and white. The flags consistently used by supporters are vertically divided red and white, some of them having a white B in the red stripe and a red O in the white stripe.
Vertical banner of Biarritz Olympique Pays Basque - Image by Ivan Sache, 29 April 2005
On 3 April 2005, the club played the quarters of the
European Cup against the Irish province of Munster. The traffic circles
near the railway station and in the entrance of the city were decorated
with several masts bearing long, vertical banners vertically divided
red and white.
Red and white are not the municipal colours of Biarritz, which are blue and yellow.
Ivan Sache, 29 April 2005