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by Ivan Sache
On Sunday 7 January 2001, the RC Lens fan club Les Gaulois d'Or (The Golden Gauls) presented their "Flag of Hope" before the match RC Lens - Nîmes Olympique.
Lens was in the past a kind of capital city of the "Black Country" (Pays noir), the coal-mining district of the north of France. The football club Racing Club de Lens is one of the symbols of the north of France. RC Lens plays in its traditional colours Sang et Or (Blood and Gold).
The Golden Gauls are the RC Lens fan club of the small municipality of Ablain-Saint-Nazaire. They designed a giant flag for the Teléthon Charity Day with the help of the local Sewing Club. The size of the flag is 7.60 x 6. 80 m and its area 51.68 sq. m. The flag is constituted of 19 rows and 17 columns of alternating yellow and red squares. The squares in the four corners are yellow. The Golden Gauls wanted to prove that even a small village could make a giant contribution to the Telethon.
The presentation of the flag in the Félix-Bollaert Stadium in Lens can be seen on the unofficial wensite of Ablain-Saint-Nazaire.
Ablain-Saint-Nazaire is located in the plain of Lens-Liévin, just below the hill (166 m a.s.l.) of Notre-Dame de Lorette (Our Lady of Loretto). In 1727, Florent Guilbert traveled from Ablain to Loretto in Italy, and was miraculously cured there. When he returned his village, he built a chapel on the hill dominating the village. In 1870, Abbot Victrice Pingrenon developed a popular pilgrimage and several chapels were built on the hill. During the First World War, the hill was a strategic observation point which was occupied without fighting by the Germans during their breakout in 1914. Thousands of soldiers were killed near the hill until the French and Canadian troops eventually seized it on 10 May 1915, during the first battle of Artois. More than 20,000 men were identified and buried in the national war cemetery which was built around the hill. Another 20,000 unidentified men were buried in eight ossuaries, the main of them being a 52 m high lighthouse-like tower. The village of Ablain-Saint-Nazaire, located only 2 kms from the frontline, was totally destroyed during the fightings. The only remains were the ruins of the church, which were later consolidated because of their historical value.
Ivan Sache, 14 August 2002Red dog casino