Roland Garros – Paris – 23/11/2023 I had the pleasure to visit the Roland Garros stadium. This stadium hosts the French Open, which is a Grand Slam championship that is played every year. It is a beautiful modern stadium that almost feels like a maze because of how big the size of it is. But why was the stadium built? And who exactly was Roland Garros?
Who was Roland Garros?
Eugène Adrien Roland Georges Garros was a French aviation pioneer. He was the first person to fly a plane over the Mediterranean Sea in 1913 and was killed in action at the end of the first World War in 1918. However, his name lives on through the Open French Tennis Championships.
The then president of the Stade Français, Émile Lesieur, demanded that the new complex be named after his former friend. The land near the Porte d’Auteuil would only be offered to the French Tennis Federation on that condition. So, when the big tennis stadium in Paris was built in 1928, it was named after Roland Garros.
(If you would like to learn more about Roland Garros, read the article of Nora Wittenberg that is also on imageandco.online.)
Why was the stadium built?
During the first half of the 20th century, “the Four Musketeers” dominated the sport of tennis. They were Jacques Brugnon, Jean Borotra, Henri Cochet, and René Lacoste. The media loved to use nicknames for them: Toto, the Bouncing Basque, the Magician, and the Crocodile. René was so intrigued with his own nickname, that he got his suits embroidered with a green crocodile. Eventually, he started a brand called Lacoste, with a crocodile as its logo. Together, the Four Musketeers helped France win the Davis Cup six times.
In 1927, France defeated the US and won the Davis Cup for the first time. The Roland Garros Stadium was constructed during the following year to host France’s first defense of the Cup. The French Open moved into its new home that year and is now also called the Roland Garros. Near the entrance of the venue, there is a circular court that is called Place des Mousquetaires. There, you can find a monument that honors France’s six Davis Cup championships.
The stadium during and after World War II
After the outbreak of World War II, the stadium was used as a confinement center, where many who were arrested, had to await their imprisonment. One of those detained was a journalist and former communist named Arthur Koestler, who was arrested on the 2nd of October 1939. The French government held Koestler at Stade Roland Garros, before he was taken to Le Vernet Internment Camp with others, mostly refugees. Koestler recalled, you could still see posters that advertised the last match prior to the outbreak of the war. Interestingly, this was a match between Cochet and Borotra, two of the Four Musketeers, for whom the stadium was built in the first place.
Henri Cochet was also one of the players to compete in the first tennis match in liberated Paris on the 17th of September 1944. That year, Roland-Garros and Wimbledon swapped places in the calendar. That made the day incredibly hot, which is why the players were allowed to wear shorts, something usually frowned upon by the sport’s authorities. The first big tournaments after the war were played in harsh conditions, as supplies were still limited in France. However, that did not stop players and fans coming together after a six-year hiatus.
If you are interested in feeling the energy of the Roland Garros Stadium, you can visit Roland Garros 2023 from Sunday the 29th of May 2023 to Sunday the 11th of June 2023.