Can It Be Good If It's Free?

photo: cafe terrace on rue mont cenis
Where rue Mont Cenis runs into the place
du Tertre, near high noon.

The World Cup - Success or Flop?

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 29. June 1998:- You may get the impression from the photos in this issue that I spent a lot of time watching football matches at the place de Stalingrad - at the Rotonde de la Villette to be exact - but this is not so.

Big screens have been set up around the city and one of the favorite locations is supposed to be the place in front of the Hôtel de Ville. But I have been around there so much lately, I decided to take a look at how it looks in other arrondissements - such as the 19th.

This Rotonde at Villette thing - some Corn Palace I suppose - is on a pizza-shaped bit of land, which sits on the Canal Saint-Martin and points to the Villette basin. There are two arms, along the quais of the Seine and the Loire, where there are elevated walkways covered with trees. The vast area between them is an expanse of dirt. The actual canal part is on the east, or Loire, side.

Viewers can either range themselves under the trees, as you can see in the photos, or they can sit out in the open, on the ledge of one of the canal channels. The screen has its back to the Rotondephoto: screen at pl stalingrad and the sun, so it is visible, but to watch it - from the 'desert' - you face the sun.

There were a few kids waiting in the shade for the game to start.

Last Wednesday, the French team was playing in Lyon and the game started at 16:00, right when this place at Stalingrad was getting all its sun, full in the face.

No awnings against rain or sun were provided and there were no chairs. As a 'public place,' there was one or two of the automatic toilets somewhere nearby - and others in cafés, further away.

There was a fair-sized police presence, and this seemed to be about the total of the city's contribution to free World Cup football viewing, near where the 10th, 18th and 19th arrondissements meet.

No big sponsor had stepped forward to offer stands to sit on or any sort of refreshments. Some fans brought their own drinks, and some clochards had their living-outside equipment for comfort.

It reminded me of boules. You find some dirt place and you bring three metal balls, and if anybody else shows up you can have a game. You don't really need much. You could hardly need less.

But in Paris, in this corner where there are maybe 300,000 inhabitants nearby, on a school-free Wednesday afternoon with good weather - my impression was that free World Cup football had drawn a very meager crowd - maybe less than for a good automobile fender-bender.

Nobody is collecting tickets at these free broadcasts so nobody is counting heads, and I might have been at Stalingrad at the wrong time - but I wonder if - except for some hard-core fans - this whole big razzle of World-class football in Paris, is a big flop.

Hard News from The Tocqueville Connection

This week's 'The Tocqueville Connection' has a report about France ending its nuclear-test era. This online magazine, with its in-depth and somewhat insider news and views, goes online on Friday mornings.

This can be a shame, because this week they missed the Sunday TV-news report about the French navy firing up the reactors on its brand-new 'world-class' atomic aircraft carrier. With one of these babies, France becomes number two in the worldwide atomic aircraft carrier race, right behind the United States, which is the leader. I think the report said there is no number three. At 16 billion francs a pop, I guess not.

Take a Good Look at ShareLook

A month ago a fellow named Damien called me up to suggest I take a look at a relatively new search service called 'Sharelook.' This search outfit started in Germany in August of 1996, and Austria was added in early 1997. Switzerland followed in June of last year, shortly after the introduction of the Sharelook 'cities' sites.

The French version has been online since the beginning of this year and now it is really starting to roll. What I like about it, in addition to its Paris selection, is Sharelook's direct connections to other cities, such as Berlin, Bochum, Düsseldorf, Köln, Wien and Zürich. Notice that Bochum is included. This can only mean that München and Bremen must be in sad decline.

Take a look at Sharelook and find out.

Metropole's World Cup Links

Since just after the beginning of the year, a few links to World Cup sites have been a weekly item near the end of the 'Au Bistro' column - sort of in the guise of 'SportsNews.' The whole razzle-matazzle is now upon us, so I've moved these links to a page of their own. Doing this puts footfans into a kind of a 'links ghetto,' except for one link there to an anti-World Cup Web site.

Exhibitions and Events in Versailles

These are so copious - at least throughout July - that you should check the Web site mentioned in this issue's featuregraphic: guides to versailles about the town. If in Versailles, pay a visit to the tourist bureau.

In addition to the town of Versailles, there is this 'stately home' and its 'stately park.'

The covered part of the Notre-Dame market is open daily, but the stalls in its centre are only in operation on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. The 'outdoor market' in the same place is on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday afternoons. Even if you can't remember this, you'll probably hit it right by accident.

Paris' Centre de la Mer

While Lisbon has its World's Fair with a ocean theme, Paris has its own Institut Océanographique, in spite of being some way from the nearest sea.

The 'Centre de la Mer,' as it is alsographic: centre de la mer called, currently has a exhibition lasting until 6. September. The event being mrked is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Albert 1st of Monaco, who founded the institution; based on 28 scientific cruises undertaken between 1885 and 1914.

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