Slow ticket sales for the showpiece Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe weekend in Paris on 2 and 3 October have prompted France Galop to launch a campaign to persuade British and Irish racegoers to return to Longchamp for the 100th running of Europe’s most valuable race next month.
A crowd of 42,000, including at least 20,000 visiting from Britain and Ireland, saw Waldgeist deny Enable a record-breaking third success in the Arc in October 2019. While that figure was a big drop on the 55,000 who watched Golden Horn’s win in 2015, it was around 7,000 up on the attendance in 2018, for Longchamp’s troubled first running of the Arc following a €140m (£123m) redevelopment.
Hopes that Longchamp could build on the 2019 attendance a year later were frustrated by the coronavirus pandemic, with the 2020 Arc taking place behind closed doors. While French sporting venues are now operating at full capacity once again for spectators with proof of full vaccination against Covid-19, ticket sales for Arc weekend are well adrift of their pre-pandemic levels.
“They are definitely behind the 2019 figures, but that is the same for French spectators as well,” Olivier Delloye, France Gallop’s general manager, told a press conference to promote the Arc meeting on Monday. I think the trend is consistent on both sides of the Channel.
“We felt that from England, it’s not obvious you can go racing without any limit of capacity and under what conditions, so it was important for us to share the information.
“The number of daily cases is decreasing every day – so people who are keen to come to France, especially in the Paris area, I think provided they are themselves vaccinated, should not be afraid about the situation here. All that people need to go to the races is [a] “health pass”, either showing you are fully vaccinated, or you can show a negative PCR or antigen test, and we will be offering the service of antigen tests at the gates.
“It’s obviously much easier for British racegoers if they are vaccinated, knowing there will be no quarantine going back home for them.”
The 100th running of the Arc will also be marked by a series of events and initiatives, with the track decorated with the colours of the previous 99 winners and all surviving winning riders invited to Paris to join the celebrations.
The track is also confident that there will be no repeat of the PR debacle in 2018, when racegoers visiting the new facility for the first time complained of long queues for toilets, betting windows and bars, and little or no food or drink available when they finally made it to the front.
“We have done a lot to receive the fans the best way we can,” Delphine Violette, France Galop’s head of marketing, said. “There will be more than 15 food trucks, the big Guinness pub [in the cheaper of two enclosures] and we have organised a lot of shuttle bus services from Paris to let people come to the racecourse easily.
“In the stands there will be more than 15 bars and nearly 200 waiters to serve the fans.”