Tapie Freed!

Les Trois Quartiers
Les Trois Quartiers, near Madeleine.

Tour de France Tours Champs-Elysées, Quickly

Paris:- Saturday, 26. July 1997:- Bernard Tapie walked out of the Luynes 'Maison d'Arrêt' early yesterday morning, having absolved his eight-month sentence in the Olympic Marseille football-fix affair.

He climbed into a grey Mercedes, driven by Marc Fratani and rejoined his wife at a borrowed country house near Aix. In fact, the sentence commission let him go free two weeks early; Mr. Tape did not benefit from the traditional 14. July Presidential Amnesty.

Spokesmen said that he suffered from isolation while in jail, mostly due to not being held together with the general prison population. When he was transferred from Luynes to the Santé in Paris for additional court appearances, he was held in a high-security area, reserved for other businessmen-prisoners.

According to his lawyers, Mr. Tape was not allowed to see newspapers or television, nor permitted a radio. During the hour's exercise allowed every day, he had to do it alone.

Since he is still technically serving his term until 8. August, he is not allowed to leave the Provence-Alps-Côte-d'Azur region. After this date, he is free to go wherever he wants to.

In fact, Mr. Tapie is awaiting two other judgements to come. There is the appeal of the six-month jail-term for the Phocéa-Testut affair and the appeal of the 18-month term for the accounting fiddle with the football club's books. If his lawyers can get these sentences made concurrent, it is possible he will not do hard-time for them.

There is still an unresolved cloud on Mr. Tapie's horizon and it is in the person of the Paris judge, Eva Joly. She has been looking at the accounts of two of Mr. Tapie's Place de la Concorde financial units - from which she may produce a charge of illegal bankruptcy.

The place de la Concorde, on a normal summer's day in July 1997.

This particular judge is also looking at possibly a half-dozen other corruption cases involving very big businessmen, and reading about her exploits gives a somewhat instructive idea of the wide powers of a French [ prosecuting ] judge.

There are rules and there are limits - known generally as the 'straight and narrow.' If you are a 'big hat' and you stray from this path and Eva Joly finds out about it, she has a set of rules and limits at her disposal, which were designed by an industrial vacuum-cleaner company. She sweeps up everything as evidence, including the suspects.

This Week's Disaster

Late Tuesday night, fire broke out in the roof area of the Musée des Monuments Français, located in the northern wing of the Palais de Chaillot at Trocadéro.

The 211 firemen - 'sapeurs-pompiers' - called to the scene had a difficult job because the fire was between the roof and a false ceiling, and burning bits were falling, while the exterior of the roof was being weakened. It was also a delicate job, with the firemen trying to limit damage caused by saving the building - water from the hoses found its way to the basement location of the Musée du Cinéma.

Pumps to extract the water were brought in quickly and most of the cinema material was saved, as were most of the contents of the monuments museum, as they had already been given protection from the renovation which was taking place.

Amateur video aired on TV-news showed impressive amounts of smoke and some fire, and two firemen were reported injured.

Police investigators moved in on Wednesday, especially since explosions had been heard at the height of the blaze. The roof was being renovated, and it is believed some gas containers stored there exploded.

The fire service is very familiar with all of the important buildings in Paris; and pretty much knows how they are going to fight a fire before they arrive on the scene - which, in Tuesday's case, they did very quickly after the alarm. As with all museums, one priority it to use a minimum of water in order to limit damage.

The actual damage, although looking bad on TV, was less than feared by the museum's administration. No item was irreparably damaged. It is too soon to estimate the cost of the repairs, but it will be high.

Traffic in Paris

Since everybody has a preconceived idea of what this must be like, I don't normally mention it - being as it is sort of a fact of everyday life.

However, if you have rented a car and are expecting smooth cruises around town during this summer period when you expect the local cowboys are out somewhere on the range - forget it.

Summer is when Paris fixes its roads. 'Fixing roads' means closing them to traffic, which means... that the map you got from the rental company is not operative.

In normal times, it may take only one car or truck, in some one-lane street, to completely derange all west-Paris traffic patterns. Imagine then, what can happen if a part of the Périphérique is suddenly blocked. Or, if you are on the Périphérique looking for the exit for the autoroute to Rouen, and the exit is closed.

Experienced Parisian drivers may know where to look for the plentiful and yellow 'Déviation' - detour - signs, but you... may turn the wrong way before you see the first one.

I'm not wishing bad luck on anyone, because I have done this myself - and know that the 'work-around' can involve a long unplanned detour.

Each edition of Le Parisian has the day's work sites on its back page and although it is very large scale, it is still helpful. Be sure to get a copy before getting behind the wheel. Le Parisian also says it has been the worst July in memory for traffic jams.

The Bike Cops are Back in Town

In 1984, 5,000 Paris coppers on bikes, who were called 'Hirondelles' - swallows - ended their tours of Paris and its suburbs.

Starting Monday they are back, although in less force. Two units are destined to patrol the Bois de Vincennes and the Bois de Boulogne, and a third motorized unit will patrol the city's 50 kms of bike lanes - to be extended to 100 kms by year's end.

The two parks' teams will mainly assure security on Wednesdays, weekends and on holidays. The motorized units will work Sundays, especially around the regular citizens' operations called, 'Paris-Piétons-Vélos.'

At first the city teams will have 'cyclomoteurs,' but these will be replaced with faster scooters. There will be two teams with motorcycles, presumably in order to catch some of Paris' speedier cyclists.

Le Parisien says that 170 cyclists per hour have been counted on the boulevard Saint-Germain during the rush-hours. A poll taken by the Mairie de Paris on 24. April revealed that a lot of rush-hour cyclists are commuters.

Some taxi drivers do not like the new bike lanes, but a cycling association spokesman said bicycles are not the cause of traffic congestion in the city. The Mairie is steadily repeating that the new lanes are coming - these things can happen overnight in August, when nobody is looking.

Visitors are showing more interest in seeing the capital from behind handlebars, and some bike rental outfits have found that there is a market for guided tours - which Le Parisien even Parisians take, because they can go places they wouldn't normally see.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the team-up between the city, the RATP and the SNCF, to offer bike rentals to their passengers - within Paris and throughout the Ile-de-France.

Today's Le Parisien runs this photo, but tomorrow the order will be reversed when they stand on the winner's podium.

The company operating in partnership on this is 'Paris-Vélo' and they can be found at the gares: Est, Austerlitz and Montparnasse. The firm 'Mountain Bike' operates from the SNCF stations in Versailles.

'Paris Vélo C'est Sympa!' is another firm which specializes as much in guided tours as straight rentals. Their shop can be found at 37. boulevard Bourdon, Paris 4. This runs along the canal-like port Paris-Arsenal and the closest métro is Bastille. For info, tel.: 01 48 87 60 01.

Sports News Makes a One-Time Comeback

Paris:- Update: Sunday, 27. July, 1997:- Today's overall winner of this year's Tour de France is Jan Ullrich, of the Telekom team. He crossed the finish line about 17:40 today.

The last day's route of the 21-day event started at noon at Disneyland Paris, east of Paris in the Seine-et-Marne department. The 150-km route wound north before settling in to following the Marne towards Paris, which it entered at the Porte de Bercy.

The racers charged along the right-bank quais, did a loop around the Bastille and then headed straight up the rue de Rivoli to Concorde. At Concorde, they leaned left then right, into the Champs-Elysées, then barreled straight up it to just short of the Etoile. Here they did a 180 degree turn and raced off down the Champs to Concorde, slipped right then left into the quai des Tuileries.

They took a sharp left into the avenue du Général Lemonnier - which is approximately where the Château des Tuileries used to be - followed by another left, back to heading west on the rue de Rivoli. The leaders and the following pack - le peloton - did this loop 10 times, and TV's France 3 cameras caught much of the dizzying action.

The two things that stand out with this edition of the Tour de France are Jan Ullrich's overall win, a first for a German; and his age: 23 years and seven months. Only two other winners have been younger; Felice Gimondi in 1965 and Laurent Fignon in 1983.

Although Jan Ullrich came first, he did so with the popular Frenchman, Richard Virenque - who is brilliant at crossing finishing At the finish line lines with a winner's style - on his heels. In effect, the two duelled throughout the Tour.

The first rider to cross the line in today's 150 km and final sprint, is neither of the overall winners, but a winner on the Champs-Elysées.

Their sponsors - Deutsche Telekom for Ullrich and Festina watches for Virenque - certainly got their money's worth with either one or the other in the TV spotlight nightly - when they weren't both in it together.

Gazillions of Germans became immediate Tour de France fans, with hordes of them crossing the Rhine as the Tour swept through Colmar and Alsace. At one point, I heard many went out and got equipped with satellite reception in order to watch the race - as Jan Ullrich originally came from Rostock on the Baltic - too far away to get good Tour TV coverage.

That's it for this year. Another Tour de France has passed through 3,942 km of countryside and the month of July. An event where admission is as free as the emotions generated, sustained over three weeks by a great deal of hype and an even greater deal of raw courage by the contestants.

Thanks guys. You did it again!

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