France to 'Beat Clock' to Century's End

This week's Bistro

Lost Vegas Offers Dubious Flattery to Paris

Paris:- Saturday, 5. April 1997:- Obviously the biggest news of the week, is that France has decided that it will exist until the beginning of the next century, which is also, co-incidently, the beginning of the new millenium - the third.

This fairly welcome news greeted Friday's readers of Le Parisien. The headline across pages two and three says: 'Le Compte à Rebours Commerce' - the countdown starts.

Some time ago, in a report about Beaubourg's renovations, I mentioned that the countdown clock that had been there had been taken down. It showed the number of seconds to the end of the century.

A new countdown panel has been affixed to the Tour Eiffel; which merely shows the days left until 31. December 1999. Before you say, stop! booboo! let me point out that Alain Juppé, the current Prime Minister, is taking personal responsibility for France getting to the end of the century a year before the rest of the world.

He has decided that only 'purists' will go for 31. December 2000; but I suggest he is just trying to making up for France's slow start to the finish line, so it is okay with him if it is moved forward. Many other cities have stated their plans for the 'end of' a long time ago.

You can think of this what you will. By purest fluke of chance, the new countdown panel - which is illuminated The 'Newsroom' so that it can be read in daylight - was turned on Saturday or Sunday. Whichever day it was, it said '1,000 Days' and Le Parisien says this is from Sunday - to Friday, 31. December 1999.

Metropole's TV 'newsroom' after a night of serious 'news' coverage.

By the time you read this, if it is on Metropole's publication date of Monday - and if Monday itself is included - there will be only 999 more visiting days to Paris in this century. Although between us, we know there will be 1,364 - which is better for you and better for Paris.

With the extra year on hand, the city should have the time to think up something a bit grander than the 'countdown clock.'

In fact, up until Monday, 15. June - of this year! - you are invited to send your idea of what Paris should do for a fête for the occasion. There is even a 'financial' prize involved, although its incentive value is not mentioned. Do not be put off by the apparent rule that this competition is only open to the French.

Address your idea to: 'Mission Célébration An 2000,' BP 2000, 75231 Paris Cedex 05, France. There is a "toll-free' Azur number to call for additional information, but I think it is only available on local dialup. Write as early as you can, while Mr. Juppé is still Prime Minister.

Bad News for Paris, Good News for Lost Vegas

Mayor Jean Tiberi of Paris recently put on a stiff upper lip while hosting a visit by a group of real-estate boosters from Nevada, who were in Paris to announce plans to turn 10 hectares of Nevada desert into 'Paris Las Vegas.'

This is a brain-child of the Hilton Hotels Corporation, which also intends to erect a 50-floor replica of the Tour Eiffel, which will overlook stunning downtown Las Vegas, as well as other semi-replicas of other parts of Paris, including the Seine and a bridge or two.

I have grave doubts about the seriousness of this worthy and ambitious three-year project because the estimated budget is only $750 million. This is pin-money compared to what Paris spends to run for a year, without including the capital costs of ongoing monumental projects and the opening of new bike lanes.

The Hilton Corporation honestly thinks it is doing Paris a favor, by giving Americans who can not afford to visit the real thing, a decent, clean and polite alternative.

And who knows? If visitors to Las Vegas can win enough to get out of town, they may decide to visit Paris on account of this huge advertisement for it sprawled all over the desert.

If it doesn't look like this is going to happen, I don't see why Mr. Tiberi can't authorize the opening of a few casinos in the city of light, as a tribute to Las Vegas.

The Chimney Gang Gets Cleaned Up

Police think they have laid their handcuffs on the 'brains' of a hot-chimney mob. With the arrest of Paul Grizvivatz, also known as 'Paul des Chiminées,' police believe they have brought an end to a hard-working band of heavy-duty thieves.

They are suspected of having looted no less than 350 Louis XV and Louis XVI-style chimney-mantels made out of marble and other good stone from private mansions in the Paris area. The police have also put the cuffs on two fences, one in Saint-Ouen and the other in Mâcon.

The majority of these stolen pieces of houses were exported to Belgium, Italy, Great Britain and even the United States, where they are thought to have fetched prices of from $8,000 to $40,000 each. Investigations are continuing.

Interns Out for Third Week

While the A2-TV news photo shows people who look like hospital people in what looks like a hospital room, interns were joined by doctors in Thursday's street demonstration in Paris.

As usual police reported 3,000 marchers and the labor organizers claimed 20,000. All the same, the tail of the marchers was composed of Interns still on strike ordinary hospital workers, most of whom are organized by the regular unions.

There have been on and off 'negotiations' on a nearly non-stop basis, but neither the government nor the strikers are budging a centimetre. Next demo is slated for Sunday, 13. April and independent doctors, and 13 labor organizations are supposed to take part in it.

While medical workers are unlikely to cause problems for visitors, bank employees are getting ready for another round of labor actions. The government has said that it will suspend a 1937 decree, which limits banking days to five per week.

With the decree lifted, banks would be allowed, in theory, to operate seven days a week. This would cause employees to have irregular hours, and they object to this. Some banks are now operating 'robot' branches seven days a week; with ATMs, which permit a variety of operations in addition to cash withdrawals.

In the Ile-de-France, banks in Paris are generally open from Monday to Friday. Outside of Paris, banks are more likely to be open from Tuesday to Saturday. Post office banks are generally open from Monday to Saturday noon. Le Poste's ATMs accept all the usual plastic, by the way.

Outside of the Ile-de-France, ATMs are not nearly so widespread, so be sure to stock up on enough cash to get through a weekend that may include Monday

Like Beetlebomb, Here Comes the Sports News

Sunday Update:- This morning as I am staggering drowsily into my clothes, the radio station France-Info is blaring, " the two-hour mark the fastest runners are crossing the finish line of the ZZth Paris Marathon, following the leader, ...zzzKXtzz... by zplaxt minutes..." and my brain kicked over a half-revolution The sports news that wasn't and remembered the plugs I was giving to the marathon back in December; when there was deadline for entering it.

While eating breakfast, radio FIP didn't say anything about it that I could hear. The weekend sports roundup is at 17:45 on A2-TV and the marathon report came on within ten minutes and lasted about 45 seconds, but did not show the winner nor mention his name (so far as I could hear).

The big evening news on A2-TV at 20:00 had a much longer report and the video-cut was better, but it didn't show the winner either, or mention the winning time. The last finishers crossed the line about six hours after the start - which was at 9:00 this morning, I believe.

During the day I set sheets of paper and pens around the flat in case there was any impromptu news on the marathon, and I believe I once got the time as being XYZ seconds? minutes? slower than last years,' but I don't know last years' time either. Now I can't find any of these notes and the pens have been 'disappeared.'

Saturday's Le Parisien seems to have no pre-report about the marathon, although I think I heard there were some really big-name, serious contenders entered.

I am telling you all this nothing because I think it is odd that there can be a major sporting event with 20,000 contestants - not spectators: contestants! - and they tie up a world super-city for half a day - and the 'score' seems to be of no importance whatsoever to local news organizations.

As a protest, I think I will boycott the World Cup matches in Paris next year. Of better yet, here are the scores for all World Cup games next year: all games, zero-zero, in sudden-death overtime shootouts.

Final *** Monday update:- First-time Paris Marathon runner, the Kenyan John Kembol scooped up a surprise victory on Sunday, with a time of 2h10'14." This was 11 seconds off the rocord time set in 1992. The favorite and expected-to-win, Swartbooi from Nambia, finished but his place has not been given. The first woman across the line was Russia's Helena Razdroguina, and her time was not given either. I thank Monday's edition of Le Parisien for the information.

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