My brief was straight forward enough: while the rest of the UK media focused on London's bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games, I travelled to Paris to examine the extent of French public support for the Games and to gauge their anticipated economic consequences.
With less than a month to go before the IOC meets in Singapore to announce its decision on which city has won the bid for the 2012 Games, Paris has become an even firmer favourite; during a few days touring the city, it is evident that such status is well-founded.
But the city's bid leaders are making great efforts not to sound too triumphal although at an estimated cost of $6.2 billion (£3.4 billion), Paris looks set to host its first Games since 1924.
Upon arrival, I notice a pile of small red booklets stacked on the reception desk at my hotel; l'Amour des Jeux it proclaims, a phrase from which it is difficult to escape.
Inside, an extract from an economic study gets to the heart of the matter: "An estimated 42,000 permanent jobs will be created through the Games [which] will speed up development in extraordinary proportions for our quality of life and Paris' appeal the world over."
It becomes apparent that while Parisians may love the Games, they appreciate the extent of the associated economic benefits too.
A similar line is expressed by Bernard Rovan whom I meet in Versailles, the city to the west of Paris where Louis XIV established his extraordinary palace. Both palace and grounds are stunning, awash with visitors.
If Paris is successful, Rovan's engineering firm expects to be involved in the construction of a new Olympic shooting centre, due to be constructed on the edge of Versailles.
"You can see," he says, pointing at a crowd of perhaps 2,000 tourists making their way to the front of Louis' Chateau, "that tourism is very big for Paris and Versailles."
Indeed, the numbers are impressive and, according to Rovan, Paris wants more of them: "Winning the Olympic bid will give a great boost to tourism in Paris," he says; "Frenchmen love sport, but we are also very practical."
Construction at Versailles could start within a year as the cost of a shooting centre is accounted for in budgeted expenditure of $2.68 billion (£1.5 billion).
This may look a low figure, but to keep costs down, the French are committed to upgrading many existing venues at a total cost of £212 million and building a new Olympic Village for £80 million. As for income, organisers have been
promised £165 million from the Games' worldwide sponsors and a further £291 million from 'local' corporations.
But the numbers stack up because the French Government is underwriting the total cost of the Games which allows the true cost, of $6.2 billion (£3.42 billion) - an extra £2 billion over and above the cost of 'managing' the Olympics - to be absorbed by Jacques Chirac's government.
Paris-based political leaders justify this additional expenditure by pointing to an economic study commissioned by Arnaud Lagardere, head of a consortium of 20 leading companies supporting the French bid. The study estimates that between 2005 and 2012, the Games will create 60,000 jobs and inject £4.3 billion into the French economy.
In the seven years following the 30th Olympiad, a further £2.4 billion would be pumped into the economy via the creation of 45,000 permanent jobs and from additional sporting events held at the new Olympic venues.
A recent survey showed that 81 per cent of Parisians are behind the bid.
But elsewhere, this figure appears to fall dramatically. In northern France, I found opinion divided about the value of a much-expected Paris bid victory to the rest of the country.
Jean le Reve, an Arrasbased businessman, expects the impact of any economic dividend to be limited to the capital: "Let us not pretend that winning the right to stage the 2012 Olympics will benefit the whole country," he says.
"It will not, but Paris will do very well out of it." His opinions are echoed by Michelle Vignole, an economist based in Lille.
"It is the same as in the UK," she observes, "in the centre, it is easy to garner support and justify a three billion euro (£2 billion) government guarantee, but few people here [in Lille] consider the Games to be anything other than being for the benefit of Paris."
Yet the Paris bid will almost certainly be selected by the IOC next month thanks to the French government's role as financial guarantor; if so, one hopes that undertakings given in support of sport by their British counterparts will not wither on the vine.
A French success in Singapore could present us with a marvellous one-off opportunity to provide a financial and political fillip to sport in the UK and next month could be our final chance to take it.