No surprise at all.
Of the total number of Gold Clown awards handed out to circus acts throughout the famous festival's history, I am impressed. Confirms my respect for the judges of Monte Carlo -- not to say all of their verdicts over the years have been correct; that I would not know, having not followed the events closely.
But, look here, French-speaking Monte Carlo is a ward of Monaco, itself surrounded on three sides by France, right? And French acts have not fared nearly as well as those from the leading nations. In this regard alone, I have no reason to suspect undue favoritism. In fact, European nations only did fairly well.
The reigning champions? Top honors, equally shared, go to CHINA and RUSSIA, each having won 11 Gold Clowns. Very impressive. Why? Because of the outstanding artists I see at our circuses today, a dominating number of them hail from the two nations that have the most advanced institutionalized training programs. China's acrobatic troupe traditions are well known; the old Soviet Union circus empire, its residual effectiveness still a power, was legendary.
Does this mean that all of the Golds were well earned? Not necessarily. Given any act, there can be intelligent disagreement on whether it should have been handed the Silver instead of the Gold, or vice versa.
The country in third place, with 10 Golds, might well surprise you; it sure did me: North Korea. A great surprise because I do not recall seeing any acts from the country. Evidently, they are allowed to compete. Next comes Italy, with 6 Gold Clowns, followed by 4 for the United States (one of them being for juggler Anthony Gatto, the only juggler ever so honored). France and Switzerland each hold 3, Spain, Canada, and the Ukraine, 2. Lastly, a single Gold Clown resides somewhere in each of the following: Mexico, Bulgaria, Portugal, Romania, Argentina, England, and Hungary.
By discipline, 44 of the Gold Clowns were awarded to acrobatics, 12 of those for flying trapeze troupes. Animal acts won 13, Clowning, 4: Charlie Rivel, Georges Carl, Oleg Popov, and David Larible.
136 Silver Clowns have been handed out. Bronze Clowns, first awarded in 2002, number 32.
Here come some staggering numbers: Throughout the 34 festivals, a total number of 1,040 acts participated, comprising "more than 5,400" artists, according to a press release issued from the Monte Carlo press office.
The 34 festivals are said to have drawn, in total, more than 900,000 spectators.
How I wish I'd been one of them.