Paris - Year 2000

photo: cafe le solferino

A brisk walk in winter sunlight from the Musée
d'Orsay puts you in this café.

A Big Bang On a Budget

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 1. February 1999:- The 'Dôme de la Millénaire,' to measure about a kilometre in circumference or 320 metres in diametre, is not going to be built in Paris. It will be opened by the Queen in London. Paris intends to be modest for the millennium.

The grand plans that were around in late 1997 are no more. No new Tour Eiffel, flying the maple leaf high over east Paris. No other 600 'grand' projects. Paris intends a modest 'people's show' instead. This will be doable and cheap.

Of the 37 projects now being planned, 25 of these are private initiatives and are expected to be paid for by their promoters and advertising. The new millennium will open with the hucksterism of the old; a supposedly comforting continuity.

The city is paying the whole nut for some others, and 'topping up' the budgets of shows like Robert Hossein's 'Celui Qui Dit Non' - a spectacle about Charles de Gaulle. If you've wondered about the poster on the Morris column on the contents page this week and last, it is for this show - coming in October, being advertised now.

The city expects to spend not a centime more than 40 million francs. The new logo, with a slap-dash 'Paris 2000,' is subtitled 'Le Choix du Coeur.' Since nobody here ever agrees about anything, the criticism has already started about the low-ball plans.

Some say 40 million out of a city budget of 32 billion francs is peanuts. Some taxpayers beg to differ. Some say Paris stature requires something stupendous; not so, say others.

Look at Los Angeles with its 'Party 2000.' Look at Berlin with its biggest fireworks show in the entirephoto: meudon observatory history of the world - which I thought it already had in 1945. Look at Rome, with its expected 25 million pilgrims and music by Enrico Morricone. Look at Switzerland, with its precision; deciding that it will party in 2001, when the new millennium actually starts. It looks like London's dome is the only original idea around.

My 'guides' fail me - I think the observatory at Meudon is on the Meridian.

And Paris is not playing fair, because some of its projects have either been done before or are regularly scheduled. The Champs de la Sculpture has a re-run planned for the fall, and the Fête de la Seine in September is likely to become an annual event anyway, like Bastille Day.

So what's left? Well, starting in July the 'biggest inflatable balloon in the world' is going to be anchored over the André Citroen park in the 15th arrondissement. From the beginning of September, the Place de la Concorde will be home to the 'giant' ferris wheel; 60 metres high, with 42 gondolas. Whoopee! In low-rise Paris getting high is high-life.

Also for the Place de la Concorde, also for September, an old idea dating to 1913: turning the whole thing into a gigantic sun-dial. Thank you, Camille Flammarion!

For the last 10 days of the year, Trocadéro is slated for transformation into an alpine ski area, with a village of folksy chalets and some pine trees. The Père Noël will have a 'live' crèche, with live animals.

At Palais Royal, a giant book - 15 metres high - will be set up, around which there is to be a gathering of 500 authors and 300 artists.

But the best will be reserved for the last: the countdown numbers on the Tour Eiffel will switch from days to hours on Thursday, 31. December; then from hours to minutes; finally, from minutes to seconds... until cinq, quatre, trois, deux, un...

And then the festivities planned for the year 2000 can begin.

For Paris, two other items are worth mentioning. Besides the city, the state will be mounting events. One is called 'Les Portes de l'An 2000.' I have no idea what these will be other than they will be made or designed by well-known artists, and will be placed in all of France's major cities.

From the Etoile to the Place de la Concorde, these 'portes' will 'open' at midnight on 31. December in Paris and in all the other cities with them.

As has been previously mentioned, a tree was planted on the old meridian at Saint-Martin-du-Terre last 25. November. Similar trees are to be planted along the meridian's 1,200 kilometre length between Dunkirk and Perpignan - and this line runs through the centrephoto: meudon observatory terrace of Paris. For Tuesday, 14. July 1999, a picnic has been planned to take place - on - the meridian; from one end to the other.

For seeing the fireworks, the terrace at Meudon is nearly as good as the Champ de Mars.

The picnickers, who will be very happy if the weather is good, will wave. It should be quite a sight from outer space and if you happen to be an astronaut and pass over on this date, you should wave back.

All of this may sound somewhat low-key and less than overwhelmingly exciting. The thing to remember is that this is 'extra' to Paris' regular program of non-stop events, exhibitions, shows, parades, festivals and salons - which are always so many they can't be shoehorned into the 'Scene' paes.

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