Michael Pavitt

A debate is underway in France over the name of one of the venues for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, pitting sponsorship revenue against sporting heritage.

The Porte de La Chapelle Arena is expected to be named the "Adidas - La Chapelle District", after the venue’s operators struck an agreement with the German sportswear manufacturer.

According to French newspaper Le Monde, the Adidas will reportedly pay €2.8 million (£2.3 million/$2.9 million) annually for the naming rights. From a business perspective, the agreement sounds a sensible one.

The controversy over the move follows the Paris Council having voted in favour of a proposal to name the facility after women's sport activist Alice Milliat.

The need to recognise more women in sport was highlighted as one of the key reasons for the move, with a petition claiming it would be the first time an Olympic venue would be named after a woman.

The petition said it reflected that there was a "long way to go for equality between women and men in our society, but also in sport."

Milliat's efforts in 1917 to have women's sport recognised at the Olympic Games, as well as her involvement in organising the Women's World Games in Paris in 1922 were highlighted.

Four editions of the Women's World Games were held from 1922 to 1934, with the events viewed as having opened up a wider range of women's competitions at the Olympic Games.

Many would feel the tribute would be a fitting one, which would continue a long-standing tradition of venues being named after historic figures in sport.

This will be shown at the French Open again later this month, with the show courts at the clay court tournament named after Philippe Chatrier, Suzanne Lenglen and Simonne Mathieu.

Similarly, Rod Laver and Margaret Court are recognised at the Australian Open, while the US Open has the Arthur Ashe Stadium, located in the United States Tennis Association Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

The Rod Laver Arena is one of tennis marquee venues named after one of the sport's greats ©Getty Images
The Rod Laver Arena is one of tennis marquee venues named after one of the sport's greats ©Getty Images

Naming venues after sporting stars is a tricky business. After all, there were calls in 2017 to rename the Margaret Court Arena, following comments she made about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

The move was resisted, with Court’s sporting achievements rather than her personal beliefs viewed as key.

There was little discussion required in late 2020, when the Naples City Council approved a proposal to rename the San Paolo Stadium as the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona in honour of the late Argentine football star.

Maradona, who has his own shrine in the Italian city, had led Napoli to two Serie A titles and inspired a UEFA Cup triumph in 1989.

The greatness is perhaps underlined by Maradona not being from the city, with Naples having identified with him during his successful period with the team.

Recognition for sporting greatness occasionally goes beyond the arenas themselves.

It was reported in 2020 that a series of roads were named in Melbourne after cricket greats, not limited to Australian stars.

Road names included “Tendulkar Drive”, “Kohli Crescent” and “Kallis Way” to highlight their contributions to the sport in the cricket mad nation.

A bizarre example occurred only last week at the Giro d’Italia, where Mark Cavendish wrapped up Hungary’s hosting of the race start by sprinting to victory on the third stage.

The Manxman left Hungary with his 16th stage win at the Grand Tour to his name, but also a bus stop as the Hungarian village of Zámoly seized on the opportunity its hosting of the race presented.

Cavendish had been pictured next to the stop on the opening stage, with Hungarian race commentators András Lantos and Gergely Bodnár initially suggesting naming the bus stop after him as a joke, according to Hungarian website Foel. Zámoly Mayor Mihály Sallai took up the suggestion, with the official unveiling held on Tuesday (May 10).

A sign titled Cavendish Megálló - Cav Stop - was drilled into the top of the bus stop. A pink bike was affixed to the top of the stop in keeping with the colours of the Giro d’Italia.

A separate sign detailing the achievements of Cavendish’s career and photos of the "historic" bike were also included.

The honour is certainly one of the most unusual of Cavendish’s illustrious career, but highlights the status the sprinter is held in.

British gold medallists at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games had the rare and somewhat unusual honour of having gold post boxes painted in their honour, which were initially designed to be temporary changes. The Royal Mail later confirmed these would become permanent colour changes, with plaques installed to identify the recipients of the 110 post boxes.

The Royal Mail declined to continue the initiative when public pressure called for Lizzy Yarnold to receive a gold post box following her gold medal in the women’s skeleton event at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics. The group justified the decision by saying that the London 2012 Olympics had been a "unique occasion" with Britain as the host nation.

A member of the public took it upon themselves to paint Yarnold’s local post box gold, albeit the effort was described as "crude".

Maderia's international airport was named after Cristiano Ronaldo in 2017 ©Getty Images
Maderia's international airport was named after Cristiano Ronaldo in 2017 ©Getty Images

Crude was also a description that may have been applied to a statue of Portuguese football player Cristiano Ronaldo in 2017, which was later replaced following criticism. The statue itself was unveiled as part of the naming ceremony for the Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport, which honoured the Madeiran native.

The airport was not the first to don the name of a Manchester United number seven, with the George Best International Airport located in Belfast.

Football is arguably one of the best for its stars receiving slightly strange places and objects named after players.

Last year a new species of dinosaur was named Iniestapodus burgensis, with Spanish paleontologists reportedly claiming the dinosaur and Andres Iniesta, their World Cup winning goalscorer, both shared "a firm, elegant and graceful gait."

Astronomers are also responsible for this phenomenon, with the likes of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer among those to have small planets and asteroids named after them.

The justification, I am sure, would be that some of their play has truly been out of this world at times during their respective careers.