April 2 - More than 1,200 chief executives from local companies attended the launch of Club 2018, a new initiative for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in France to back Annecy's bid to host the Olympics and Paralympics at an event attended by Roselyne Bachelot, France's Minister of Health and Sports.

Addressing the crowd of business leaders brought together in Annecy, numerous well-known political, economic and sports names took the microphone to share their commitment to Annecy 2018 including Bachelot, who confirmed the Government's financial investment of €3.5 million (£3.1 million/$4.7 million) for the bid.

She said: “It is the State’s duty, along with the financial partners and the athletes, to uphold this magnificent bid project."

David Douillet, the 1996 and 2000 Olympic judo champion, also spoke about his support as well as French International Olympic Committee member Guy Drut, the 1976 Montreal 110 metres hurdles gold medallist.

Several other leading athletes, includling former skier Perrine Pelen, a three-time Olympic medallist, Gwendal Peizerat, the 2002 Olympic ice dancing champion, and Deborah Anthonioz, who won a silver medal in this year's Vancouver Olympics in snowboard cross, also addressed the audience.

Created at the request of several local bussiness who want to demonstrate how much they want the Games in their country, the Club 2018 is not part of Annecy's official marketing programme, but is an opportunity for businesses to help the Olympic bid on a smaller scale.

Those that sign-up receive a number of benefits, including a promotional kit to share their support and motivation within their company, a dedicated space on the Annecy 2018 website and specific events where they will be able to network and hear details about the bid.

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