Au bistro...

Smoke and Football

Paris:- Friday, 10. May 1996:- This is one of those weeks when it's best to take things in chronological order, or we ourselves will never be able to sort it out.

Crédit Lyonnais Goes Up in Smoke

Around 8:30 last Sunday morning a fire started at the Crédit Lyonnais headquarters in downtown Paris, and by the time it was mostly out the classic site building was ruined, 39 firemen were injured and 2,500 employees had no place to work.

The destruction of the building, valued at 1.5 billion francs, just a few hundred metres east of the Opéra, between the boulevard des Italiens and the rue du 4. Septembre, was one of a long series of disasters to befall the bank, which has 39,000 employees worldwide. The bank has had to write off a lot of dubious real estate loans made in the 1980's; one of which included assuming the stewardship of the Hollywood studio, MGM, as the result of a client's financial misadventures. The bank must sell MGM by a certain deadline, so although they may be eager buyers, they are waiting to the limit. The bank has already written off 30 billion francs on this. On 25. March of this year the bank announced a profit of 13 million francs; the first profit since 1991.

Burnt Credit Lyonnais - the crowd (34k) The smoke from the fire could be seen from several kilometres distance. The fire burned for over 12 hours and although the historic facades remain largely intact, almost the entire interior is gutted; including the giant color-glass roof and dome. The 4000 square metre trading floor disappeared along with all its computers, and a lot of interior false floors and walls have also been carbonized. The two lead insurance companies are carefully reading their policies, as are the insurance companies that insure them. The state of four underground floors of strongboxes is not certain, although it was reported that only the uppermost may have been damaged by water.
As of the end of the week, most of the employees had been distributed around the bank's agencies and only about 500 remained on temporary unemployment. Trading continued, as all institutions such as this have redundant computing and communications systems that back up all data; and can be switched online very quickly.

On Monday, outside the bank there were quite a number spectators, but it was impossible for me to tell whether they were from surrounding offices, or they were Credit Lyonnais employees, wondering how there were spend the rest of the otherwise sunny day.

Paris Wants Its Pot - And Gets It

By Wednesday, the Crédit Lyonnais fire had migrated to the interior pages of Le Parisien but the story was still perking along. On the front page, Wednesday's editions featured this bug ugly pot and a photo of supporters and their banners - the most unlikely thing had happened: the Paris-St. Germain football club, hereafter to be known as PSG, was to play in its first Europe Cup final, in Brussels.

On Wednesday evening in France the streets were deserted as zillions of citizens watched PSG beat Rapid Vienna 1-0. Meanwhile, 279 PSG fans, out of an estimated 15,000, were arrested or deported by Belgian police.

France2 screen (29k)

Stadium 'party' (19k)

I don't follow football myself, but if I understand it correctly, Bordeaux's club has a chance to win the UFEA Cup in Munich next Wednesday, 15 May. Two French clubs winning any European pots in a single year may be unique.

Meanwhile, under the morning headlines of 'Gagné!' on Thursday, the victorious PSG returned to Paris at 02:40 for a 'Jour de Fête' where they were greeted by the editors of Le Parisien at 03:30, had a party at the Canal+ offices at 04:15, had riotous lunch with the mayor of Paris at noon, another riot with the President of the République, Jacques Chirac, at the Elysée Palace at 16:00, and led a popular march down the Champs-Elysées (where else?) that started at 17:00 and ended at their home stadium, the Parc des Princes at 20:00, where, as they say, the band played on.

In total, Le Parisien had three football page ones.

Faits Divers There was other news too: VE Day, the French Internet operator porn bust, 'Europe Day 1996,' and the opening of the Cannes Film Festival - and these are included in this Metropole's accompanying feature, 'Faits Divers.'

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