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Parisian pilgrimage to an iconic home of sport

Leicester Tigers have visited some famous places in European Cup, and the Stade Yves-du-Manoir in Paris is arguably the best known of the lot beyond the world of rugby.

We all have fond memories (though understandably blurred in many cases) of the Parc des Princes, the Millennium Stadium, Thomond Park and Lansdowne Road which are all among the world’s greatest rugby grounds. We’ve followed the team to Twickenham, Toulouse, Murrayfield, the Marcel Michelin in Clermont, the old rugby cauldron of Cardiff Arms Park and the modern Aviva Stadium in Dublin as well as the pressure-cookers of Pau, Perpignan and Toulon.

But this weekend we will make a final pilgrimage to Colombe in Paris to support our team at a venue seen as legendary in sport and in entertainment.  

The home of Racing 92 is not only a European Cup venue where an intimidating and star-studded home side lie in wait, but also the site of the 1924 Olympic Games.

The centenary of the Games is not too far away but they feel more contemporary thanks to the Chariots of Fire movie which spotlights British athletes Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams.

For Tigers supporters who followed the team to Paris on the last visit in January, it will come as a shock to learn that the stadium could hold a crowd of 45,000 back in 1924.

A spectacular new home awaits the arrival of Racing sometime in the new year, making Saturday’s trip a poignant one for sporting ground-hoppers.

Abrahams won the 100 metres and Liddell – who also won seven caps for Scotland in his rugby career – struck gold over 400 metres at Colombe where a track still encircles the pitch. The long jump pit, too, is in one corner.

Flickering footage of the Games still exists online, and some of the antique terrace remains in place, though mostly behind barriers these days. There will be a lot fewer supporters in straw boaters and shirt and tie when Tigers come to town on Saturday but this is undoubtedly an evocative place to watch your rugby.

As a footnote, and just to show The Tig does do some research, the Olympic motto of Faster, Higher, Stronger was used for the first time in Paris in 1924. Sounds like a perfect pre-match  team talk. Come on Tigers!