Francois Hollande has made a gentle dig at David Cameron's pledge to "roll out the red carpet" for French tax exiles, while criticising the number of empty seats at London 2012 venues. The French president also suggested an Olympic games would be run differently in France, with fewer corporate seats.
In a riposte to David Cameron's previous claim that Britain would "roll out the red carpet" to French businesses wanting to escape planned new corporate taxes over the channel, Hollande said : "The British have rolled out a red carpet for French athletes to win medals. I thank them very much for that, but the competition is not over."
Hollande, who is in London to watch the games, said of the often vast gaps among spectators: "The problem is that there are simply too many corporate seats. It will be up to French organisers to sort out this problem if a bid for a future games is to be successful."
The London 2012 organisers have been scrambling to address the problem of empty seats, which has affected almost every Olympic venue, even during significant sessions like medals ceremonies. LOCOG, the games' overall planners, is drawing up a system which would involve a series of meetings each evening to determine how many seats are likely to be empty the following day.
Those seats unwanted by the corporate sponsors or members of the "Olympic family" would then be placed for sale on the London 2012 ticketing website. But the suggestion has been that this might not happen until late at night, possibly even after midnight, so those wanting to nab last-minute tickets could find themselves making hasty plans to get to the games the following day.
France is widely thought to be preparing to bid for the 2024 games, after Paris lost out to London seven years ago in the battle to host the 2012 Olympics. Although Hollande was at pains to stress he was not announcing a candidacy he pledged to "present an extremely strong bid."
President Hollande said if the French were to host the games they would be interested in "gold not money", and in an apparent riposte to British euroscepticism said of the contest: "It is the results of Europe that will count in the games."
With France currently beating Britain in the London 2012 medals table, somewhat cryptically Hollande added: "We will put the French medals into the Europe pot, so that the British will be happy to be European."
Despite all the apparent digging Hollande acknowledged that overall the London games had been "very well organised."
"I'm not here to be a killjoy or to give lessons to the British," he said. "It's not worthy of France."
Cameron and Hollande watched the handball match between France and Spain on Monday evening, although the PM was somewhat unclear what handball involved. "I'm learning about handball, it's a new game for us," he said. "It's a game that France has been playing for some time but it's very exciting."