France Worries, But the Games Go On

photo: bistro terrace on champs-elysees
Café and bistro terraces are popping up on the Champs-Elysées like mushrooms.

The 33-Day Brawl du Football

Paris:- Saturday, 20. June 1998:- There actually is other news besides everything that is being whipped up by the World Cup matches, but the number one story of the week was about the hooligans.

As a result of the street battles in Marseille last weekend between supposed British supporters and local tough guys, French lawkeepers have cracked down hard in several ways.

If the cops nab somebody committing hooliganism, they can get them quickly to court and just about as quickly into jail - for fairly lengthy terms. Other offenders have been shipped out of the country and lesser cases have been dealt with by simply barring the stadiums to them.

By Friday, ten were in jail already serving hard time, seven were banned from stadiums and another ten were deported. One hundred and two had been arrested, and charges were pending against 79.

All this was before a policeman was attacked by four neo-Nazi thugs with iron bars and left in a coma. Toulousephoto: big bottle thing had already been shut down on account of the coming Monday match between Britain and Romania, and the annual Gay Pride party, tonight, in the Marais suffered a similar fate.

I have no idea what this is; but it is the reason I took a photo of it. It might be a UFO.

Radio France-Info was careful to point out that the German neo-Nazis are not necessarily 'football hooligans' as such; they will latch on to any big demo to cause as much havoc as possible. On TV, along with French police, you could see the familiar German police green, with 'Polizei' clearly written on their backs.

These particular types of 'bad guys' are known to French police because there are local versions. For civilians, situations can be dodgy because everybody is dressed in 'undercover' and the 'good guys' do not wear white hats, and civilians do not have uniforms.

The Big Ticket Scams

Et oui, many more than one of them. As soon as the organizers announced that had counterfeit-proof tickets I sensed there would be trouble.

Every time the Bank of France rolls out a new copy-proof coin or note, some print shop - usually in Italy - is busily cleaning their presses for the new print run. So I didn't see howphoto: bathing suit at bon marche these football guys could have some foolproof way of controlling their tickets - and they didn't and they haven't.

There were flocks of wildcat ticket dealers on the Champs-Elysées on Thursday, I was told. I saw some there myself on Friday. Not particularly discrete, they have hand-lettered cardboard signs, offering to buy or sell tickets.

The Bon Marché has a neat poster in the métro, but none on the surface - so I hacked this one together.

There are some real fans mixed in on the street as well and you can quickly learn who they are because their signs only ask for tickets to specific matches. Thousands of Japanese, and Colombians I think, bought package tours with tickets included, but when they went to get them there were no tickets.

I think some of these have come to France anyway, in the hopes of finding their tickets on the street - but I have a feeling their tickets never existed.

Some More Bad News

A report came out during the week, which dumped some startling conclusions on people here. The report was prepared by the National Institute of Public Health and Medical Research - the Inserm - with some foreign input as well, and was presented to the Minister of Health, Bernard Kouchner.

The conclusions in a nutshell: cigarettes and alcohol should be classified as dangerous drugs because they are strongly toxic and addictive, and/or are socially dangerous.

The report also included the observation that marijuana is none of the above. Of course, this point has deflected public debate away from the clinically-proved dangerous 'hard stuff' to the ridiculous argument for the suppression of weed; its users and its dealers.

When things quiet down a bit, it will be interesting to see if the main culprits will get a fair discussion - and it is possible, because Mr. Kouchner is himself a highly respected medical activist.

Anyhow you read it here: booze can be and tobacco is addictive. The report said they were as dangerous as heroin and certain kinds of speed.

And Now For A Little Bit of Good News

This year's edition of the 'Blue Flags' has been announced and 102 French communities with beaches or pleasure ports, have been granted this seal of approval.

Started in France in 1985, the 'Blue Flag' is meant to indicate that a particular area of seaside meets all sorts of standards for seaside hygienegraphic: magazine 'biba' astro d'ete and general tidiness. The idea has spread around Europe, and is now administered by a foundation called the 'FEEE.'

The main criticism of the blue signal is that it is based on conditions of the preceding year. Another is one that some communities make: they can't help it if somebody comes along and builds a toxic waste dump in their neighborhood and uses the sea as a toilet.

When dieting fails to still those hunger pangs, why not try astrology?

As a result, seaside communities put in an effort to gain the flags, and others see their efforts wasted. And because of the years' delay, all sorts of localities meet the strict standards, but do not have the flag to fly.

In most cases, common self-interest is at work. If your seaside resort looks and smells like a dump, you will not be in the seaside resort business for long - because Europe has a huge number of other beaches.

No SportsNews On M6 Makes the NewsNews

The private TV channel M6 which is not broadcasting any soccer matches, is playing the anti-football card. Last Monday night the station programmed the 1989 movie 'Not Without My Daughter.'

Whether they realized this film might cause a reaction in the Iranian camp is unclear, but at midweek it was a news item. Apparently the Iranians protested to the FIFA about an 'attempt at destabilization' of their players.

Like most other participating teams, the Iranians have their hide-away place, and it has been reported that they are not allowed to watch TV. By the weekend things had calmed down enough for the Iranians to say they would play against the US on Sunday and the official protest, reported to have been made by three of their star players, was forgotten.

The SportsBar Has Moved to the Fútbol Page for the duration. Bon chance!
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