French pole vaulter runs naked through Paris

An unidentified athlete is silhouetted as she competes during the women's pole vault event at the IAAF Golden League athletics meeting at the Letzigrund stadium in Zurich August 29, 2008. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

PARIS (Reuters) - A French pole vaulting champion has run naked with his pole through the streets of Paris and posted the video on the Internet, hoping to draw attention to his quest for a new sponsorship deal.

Romain Mesnil, who won a silver medal at the 2007 Athletics World Championships in Osaka, used to be sponsored by U.S. sports brand Nike but says his contract expired last year and was not renewed.

“It was probably for budgetary and strategic reasons. It’s the crisis,” he wrote on his website (

Many athletes have reported difficulties obtaining corporate sponsorship as companies cut costs because of the global economic downturn.

In his video, Mesnil runs with his pole as if preparing for a vault at tourist spots like Montmartre and the Pont des Arts across the River Seine. A black square has been added to the footage to cover his private parts.

The video has succeeded in drawing attention to Mesnil’s plight, at least in France. It was broadcast on primetime state television news bulletins.

Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; editing by Andrew Roche