Paris exhibits to see this autumn, from Bollywood to Chagall and Picasso

As Parisians return from their summer holidays and get back to work or school (a period known in France as “la rentrée”), the City of Lights is set for a rich cultural season. From Russian-French artist Marc Chagall to a retrospective on Indian cinema, FRANCE 24 has selected 10 of the top upcoming exhibits in Paris. 

The new cultural season in Paris is shaping up to be an extremely varied one, with exhibits dedicated to Vincent van Gogh at the Musée d’Orsay, Marc Chagall at the Centre Pompidou and Berthe Morisot – one of the leading female figures of French impressionism – at the Musée Marmottan Monet. Looking for immersive experiences and something off the beaten track? Check out the Aura Invalides, a multimedia light show under the dome at the monument where Napoleon is buried; the street art exhibit at the Grand Palais Immersif; and an exhibit on the Paris metro at the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine. 

 

Gertrude Stein et Pablo Picasso – L’invention du langage (The invention of language)

To mark 50 years since Pablo Picasso’s death, the Luxembourg museum is putting on an exhibition centred around the extraordinary friendship between Cubist pioneers Pablo Picasso and American writer Gertrude Stein, two 20th-century icons of the Bohemian art scene in Paris. 

The aim of the exhibition is not only to shed light on Stein’s little-known poetic work in relation to Picasso’s paintings and sculptures, but also to highlight their influence on artists across Europe and the United States such as Andy Warhol, Marcel Duchamp and John Cage. 

Gertrude Stein et Pablo Picasso – L’invention du langage at the Musée du Luxembourg runs from September 13 – January 28, 2024. 

 

Mode et sport, d’un podium à l’autre (Fashion and sports: From one podium to another)

The poster for “Fashion and sport: From one podium to another”, an exhibit at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, features the Lacoste couture polo dress by designer Freaky Debbie. © David Hugonot Petit, Conception graphique: Coline Aguettaz & Brice Tourneux

Ahead of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs (Museum of Decorative Arts) explores the evolution of sportswear and its influence on fashion, from ancient times to the present day. From the outfits worn by French tennis player Suzanne Lenglen to the jerseys worn by Les Bleus, the French national football team, the exhibit presents a wide selection of emblematic pieces. It also provides a perfect opportunity to reflect on the social and cultural crossover between these two seemingly distant worlds. 

Mode et sport, d’un podium à l’autre at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs runs from September 20 – April 7, 2024.

 

Aura Invalides  


 

A brand-new immersive experience is coming to Paris. From September 22, a light show will be projected onto the interior walls of the Invalides dome at dusk. Guided by music, visitors will explore the six chapels surrounding the crypt of Napoleon’s tomb and learn about the history of the 17th-century dome. This experience is an invitation to travel back in time and discover a whole new side of the Hôtel National des Invalides. 

Aura Invalides at the Hôtel National des Invalides runs from September 22. 

 

Bollywood Superstars – Histoire d’un cinéma indien (History of Indian cinema) 

The poster for the upcoming
The poster for the upcoming “Bollywood Superstars” exhibition at the Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac. © Gitanjali Rao

Previously shown at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the Musée du Quai Branly is now putting India – the world’s largest film producer with over 1,500 films a year exported throughout Asia, the Middle East and Africa – front and centre in this exhibit. More than 200 works – including paintings, costumes and photographs – will be on display, allowing visitors a rare opportunity to discover the rich history of Indian cinema from the end of the 19th century to the present day.  

Bollywood Superstars – Histoire d’un cinéma indien at the Musée du Quai Branly Jacques Chirac runs from September 26 – January 14, 2024. 

 

Van Gogh à Auvers-sur-Oise – Les derniers mois (Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise: The final months) 

“The church at Auvers” by Vincent Van Gogh was purchased with the help of Paul Gachet, son of Dr Paul Gachet, and an anonymous Canadian donation in 1952. © Hervé Lewandowski, RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay)

The Musée d’Orsay will be putting on the first exhibition devoted solely to the works produced by Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh during the last two months of his life at Auvers-sur-Oise on the northwestern outskirts of Paris. Although he only spent a short period of time there, it marked a crucial final phase in his artistic development during which he produced some of his most notable works, including “The Church at Auvers”.

Known as “the city of Impressionists”, other artists such as Cezanne and Pissaro either lived or spent time in Auvers. After visiting the exhibit, consider making a trip to Auvers-sur-Oise itself, which offers a chance to visit the graves of Van Gogh and his brother Theodore; the Auberge Ravoux, where Van Gogh lived during his stay; and the Painters’ Pathway, a self-guided walk marked by panels exhibiting the Impressionist masterpieces that were painted in and around the town. 

Auvers-sur-Oise is very easy to reach by train. Take the Transilien H train from Paris Gare du Nord to the Pontoise train station and then take another Transilien H from Pontoise to Auvers-sur-Oise. The journey will take about one hour.  

Van Gogh à Auvers-sur-Oise – Les derniers mois at the Musée d’Orsay runs from October 3 – February 4, 2024.

 

Chagall à l’œuvre – Dessins, céramiques et sculptures 1945-1970 (Chagall at work: Drawings, ceramics and sculptures, 1945-1970)

Russian-born French painter Marc Chagall works in the Madoura studio in Vallauris, France on June 11, 1952.
Russian-born French painter Marc Chagall works in the Madoura studio in Vallauris, France on June 11, 1952. © Meunier, AFP

A major 20th-century artist who was nearly as famous as his friend Picasso, French-Russian artist Marc Chagall is now honoured at the Pompidou Centre. The exhibition brings together a selection of the artist’s greatest works, including the preparatory drawings for the costumes and stage curtains in Igor Stravinsky’s ballet “The Firebird”, sketches of the ceiling of Paris’s Opéra Garnier and a collection of ceramics, collages and sculptures. This exhibit is the perfect opportunity to (re)discover his work, which is rich in colour and symbolism and influenced by his Jewish heritage, his life in Russia and his career in France

Chagall à l’œuvre – Dessins, céramiques et sculptures 1945-1970 at the Centre Pompidou runs from October 4 – February 26, 2024. 

 

Dana Schutz – Le monde visible (Dana Schutz: The visible world)

The City of Paris Museum of Modern Art is hosting the first major French exhibition of works by US artist Dana Schutz. Born in Michigan in 1976, Schutz has had a major influence on contemporary art. A storyteller skilled with colour, she has explored contemporary themes over the years through complex, large-scale fictional settings. The exhibit explores themes such as the artist at work, the construction of self and society, and the tension that can be felt in large crowds.   

Dana Schutz – Le monde visible at the Musée d’Art Moderne runs from October 6 – February 11, 2024.

 

Berthe Morisot et l’art du XVIIIe siècle (Berthe Morisot and the art of the 18th century) 

“Apollo revealing his divinity to the shepherdess” by Berthe Morisot, based on a work by François Boucher, 1892. © Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris

The Musée Marmottan Monet has brought together 65 works from French and foreign museums as well as private collections for the first time to highlight the similarities between the work of Berthe Morisot and the lesser-known 18th-century French painters from whom she drew inspiration: Antoine Watteau, François Boucher, Jean-Honoré Fragonard and Jean-Baptiste Perronneau. 

Morisot established herself as the first female Impressionist and, alongside Monet, Renoir and Degas, was one of the leading members of the group. Due to social restrictions imposed on her class and gender, the most common subject for her paintings were domestic scenes. Many of these depict members of her own family, including her husband Eugène Manet, Édouard Manet’s brother, and their daughter Julie.  

Berthe Morisot et l’art du XVIIIe siècle at the Musée Marmottan Monet runs from October 18 – March 3, 2024. 

 

Métro ! Le Grand Paris en mouvement (Metro! Greater Paris on the move)

A commuter sits in a carriage at the Gare de l'Est metro station in Paris on March 7, 2023.
A commuter sits in a carriage at the Gare de l’Est metro station in Paris on March 7, 2023. © Christophe Archambault, AFP

As part of efforts to reduce traffic congestion and national emissions, the French government launched construction in 2016 on the Grand Paris Express, a group of new transit lines that will connect many areas of the suburbs without having to pass through Paris. As this project’s first stations near completion, the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine is presenting a new exhibit about the history of the Paris metro and the urban transformations associated with it. 

Métro ! Le Grand Paris en mouvement at the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine runs from November 8 – June 2, 2024.

 

L’art urbain à l’ère numérique (Street art in the digital age)

“L’homme oiseau” (Bird-man), a work by French artists Ella & Pitr in Cerrillos, Chile, in 2013. © Ella&Pitr

Street art takes centre stage at the Grand Palais Immersif, a new exhibition space set up within the walls of Paris’s Opéra Bastille in autumn 2022. The exhibit traces the history of this artistic movement, which appeared on city walls in the 20th century, and the impact of technology on the work of street artists. From New York subway stations to large-scale murals of the 2000s and paintings created using drones, visitors can witness the evolution of street art.   

L’art urbain à l’ère numérique at the Grand Palais Immersif runs from December 6 – July 21, 2024.

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Paris ‘bouquinistes’ resist plans to remove riverside book kiosks for Olympics

The green, second-hand book kiosks that line the River Seine are beloved by both tourists and locals, but new plans could see the distinctive sheds dismantled as part of a massive security operation for the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, set to take place along the river. But the bouquinistes are fighting to keep their open-air shops open.

On a warm August afternoon, there is plenty of interest in the bookshops along Paris’s riverbanks. Tourists and locals walking the route between the Seine and the Hôtel de Ville city hall browse through the kerbside stalls, propped open to display vintage and second-hand books, posters, old maps and souvenirs for sale.

Hundreds of these green “boxes” are attached to the riverbank walls along a three-kilometre stretch of the river that passes right through the heart of the French capital. They are as familiar and distinctive a Parisian sight as the tops of Notre Dame’s towers rising above the rooftops behind them.

“We’ve been along the quays of the Seine for 450 years, and on the parapets since they were built by Napoleon III,” says one bouquiniste who has been an official delegate representing the booksellers along the central stretch of the right bank for 30 years.

Now the traditional shops are facing an unexpected threat. At the end of July, Paris city hall said that the kiosks would have to be removed when the city hosts the Summer Olympic Games in July and August 2024.

The opening ceremony is set to be a ground-breaking event, taking place – for the first time – not inside a stadium but along the river itself, with massive crowds expected to watch from the quays.

The unique open-air spectacle requires a colossal security operation and the kiosks must be taken down as a safety measure, the Paris prefecture said in July.

Read moreFrance unveils security plan for Olympics opening ceremony in central Paris

“They’re worried that people are going to climb on the boxes. But if the boxes are open, they can’t. And there’ll be railings [installed], which are dangerous too,” says Juliette, who has been selling books along the quays for a year. “All the booksellers here will tell you they don’t agree with the plans.”  

Her sentiments are echoed by Lim, who is running his wife’s shop for the day. He has just sold a second-hand children’s book to an elderly French customer. “I don’t understand why they would remove them. The boxes are a part of Paris,” he says.

“The biggest problem for me is the symbolism,” says Camille, who has sold books on the Seine for 10 years and has owned her own kiosks for five.

“For a ceremony that will last four hours, they want to make us move for months. We are part of the Paris landscape. Removing us is like removing a building.”

The bouquinistes also have practical concerns. The summer months are typically the busiest time of year for the open-air shops, as good weather brings more foot traffic and tourists to the city centre.

“Summer is the time when we make money for the rest of the year. It’s what allows us to survive. If we miss a summer of work, it’s very difficult to bounce back,” Camille says, pausing to sell a collection of vintage Vogue magazine photos to two tourists in their 20s.

Tourist numbers in Paris are expected to rise to more than 10 million in summer 2024, thanks to the Games.

To make sure the booksellers don’t miss out completely, Paris city hall has suggested they could move to a dedicated book market near the Place de la Bastille in order to keep trading over the summer months.

The idea has not been well received. In their current location, the sellers are perfectly positioned to attract foot traffic from the busy Arcole bridge that connects tourist sites on the Île de la Cité to the vibrant Marais district on the right bank. By contrast, “there’s no one at Bastille”, says Juliette.

The idea of going from bouquiniste to market stall seller also doesn’t appeal. There is an evident sense of pride among the shopkeepers that their presence in the city centre contributes to the capital’s cultural heritage in a unique way. “People who come to us come for the boxes, for their character. They represent Paris,” Juliette adds.

Uncertainty

Paris city hall has said it will manage the removal, storage and reinstallation of an estimated 570 kiosks “located within the opening ceremony security perimeter” ahead of the games, but questions abound on how the feat will be achieved.

“Where will they put them? How will we get them back? And how long will it last for?” Lim asks. “[City hall] doesn’t have the answers. There’s a lot of uncertainty.”

Shoppers look at products on sale at Lim’s kiosk along the quays of the Seine, August 15, 2023. © Joanna York, FRANCE 24

Shopkeepers are also worried about the impact the move will have on the kiosks themselves.

“They’re not made to be moved,” says Camille. “Each box is made differently because they’re all made by different people. It takes a lot of time to take them down and a good understanding of how they’re made.”

“Some boxes are very old. Mine are [30 years old], and every time I’ve moved them, they get a little damaged.”

Then there is the stock to think about. A seller with multiple kiosks can store thousands of books inside, some of which could be rare and fragile collectibles.

Camille has 2,000 books that will need to be stored elsewhere if her kiosks are dismantled. “I don’t have anywhere else to keep them. Unless I fill up my apartment for two months,” she says.

A few kiosks down, the 30-year booksellers’ delegate runs a stall that looks, at a glance, sparser than the others. There are no souvenirs or posters for sale; instead, his is dedicated entirely to rare, vintage books. In fact he is rarely at his own, instead walking from kiosk to kiosk speaking to different customers and shopkeepers, enjoying the atmosphere and opportunities for conversation that the rows of booksellers bring to what would otherwise be a busy riverside sidewalk.

His role as delegate puts him in regular contact with Paris city hall, and he was shocked at how officials broke the news of plans to remove the bouquinistes.

“There was no discussion,” he says. “I thought we were going to a meeting to prepare for the Games. But city hall had already made an administrative decision, validated it with the prefecture, and none of us bouquinistes were consulted during the process.”

He fears local officials do not value what the bouquinistes bring to the riverside, saying there have been previous attempts to convert the boxes into enclosed rental spaces or to move the shopkeepers outside of the city centre. His major concern is that, once removed, the kiosks may never return.

“All we have is a verbal promise, and we can’t just work with that. The sensible thing to do is to stay where we are, and we hope we have support to do that.”

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Parisians are most at risk of dying in European heatwaves

Faced with the urgent task of safeguarding its residents against the deadly consequences of scorching heat, Paris finds itself at the forefront of the battle against soaring temperatures. Its population is the most at risk of dying from heatwaves than any other capital in Europe.

Among European capitals, Paris has long been regarded as the epitome of elegance, culture and romance. But beneath its picturesque façade lies a simmering danger that threatens its bustling population.

Paris is the most vulnerable capital in Europe when it comes to heatwaves. Its population faces the highest risk of heatwave-related deaths, according to an article recently published in The Lancet journal.

Researchers from various countries in Europe studied mortality risks due to heat and cold across 854 cities from 2000 to 2019. The findings were unequivocal. Paris topped the list in heat-related risk across all age groups, with a likelihood of excess deaths due to rising temperatures 1.6 times higher than other European cities. Amsterdam and Zagreb followed closely behind.

With the advent of rising temperatures due to climate change, Paris is bound to continue feeling the heat. By 2050, the city could reach temperatures of up to 50°C.

Urban heat island effect

Pinpointing the exact reason behind the vulnerability of Paris’s population when it comes to heatwaves is a complex task. “It’s difficult to isolate specific factors,” says Dr. Pierre Masselot, author of the study and researcher at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. “The sheer size and density of the city definitely contribute to the heightened risk,” he says, explaining that with a population of over 2 million, the effects of heatwaves are amplified.

The socioeconomic standing of the city’s population is also an important variable to consider. “Being a big city, Paris has more disadvantaged inhabitants too,” says Masselot. Low-income neighbourhoods with limited access to green spaces, shade and air-conditioning bear the brunt of extreme heat, exacerbating the threat to vulnerable communities. “Add to this the fact that these communities often have higher rates of pre-existing health issues, and it becomes clear why” there is a greater risk to them, he says.

What is known as the “urban heat island effect” compounds the city’s deadly predicament. These hot spots occur when cities become significantly hotter than surrounding rural areas, primarily due to the proliferation of buildings and materials that absorb and retain heat. Paris’s famous grey rooftops are one example of this. While revered by famous painters like Vincent Van Gogh, the grey rooftops are made of zinc – a metal that absorbs heat. “The same goes for tarmac, which stores [and] then releases heat, making it more difficult for the city to cool down at night,” says Masselot. “And the presence of buildings blocks wind.”

Though the heat island effect can turn Paris into a veritable cauldron, temperature disparities exist from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. “Going from a dense industrial area to a park, for example, you can feel a significant drop,” Masselot explains.

Pollution also plays a significant role in Paris’s vulnerability to heatwaves. Largely generated by vehicle emissions, air pollution creates a “sort of greenhouse effect” that traps heat and intensifies extreme temperatures. “Exhaust fumes are darker and therefore reduce the city’s albedo (the proportion of incoming solar radiation reflected by the various surfaces in the urban environment), storing more heat,” the researcher explains.

And then there is the fact that heatwaves have been historically less common in Paris than other European capitals like Madrid, for example. “Cities used to heatwaves have adapted to them,” says Masselot. “So in Madrid, the mortality risk is slightly lower than in Paris for the same temperature.”

Lessons from a deadly summer

The summer of 2003 etched a harrowing chapter in European history. A heatwave of unprecedented magnitude swept across the continent, leaving a trail of devastation in its wake. More than 70,000 people died as a result, with over 15,000 of those deaths recorded in France alone. Temperatures in Paris climbed above 40°C for weeks on end.

The healthcare system was overwhelmed, with hospitals struggling to cope with the influx of patients suffering from heatstroke and dehydration. Public authorities were completely unprepared and were later criticised for their reluctance to attribute heat as the primary cause of death. France’s director-general for health at the time, Lucien Abenhaim, handed in his resignation due to the “controversies surrounding the handling” of the deaths “connected with the heatwave”. A state of emergency was declared, allowing patients to be sent to military hospitals and for crisis morgues to be established to handle the influx of bodies.

Those most affected were the elderly. Half of those who died were over the age of 85 years old, and 92% of the victims lived in isolation, many without family, friends or social ties to claim their bodies. “It opened a lot of people’s eyes,” says Masselot. “It was a turning point for the whole continent.” Some climatologists even called the heatwave the “ground zero of global warming”.

The magnitude of the tragedy prompted a collective awakening, marking a pivotal moment for the French government to take proactive measures to protect its citizens. Paris took significant strides to combat the escalating threat of heatwaves and implemented measures to avoid another disaster.

Since then, authorities have created a heatwave plan. Information on best practices is dispersed across the city, with posters detailing what to do in case of extreme heat. A telephone hotline has been set up by the city so that vulnerable people in isolation are called regularly by authorities, who check in to ensure their state of health is adequate. “Cool islands”  oases of relief from sweltering temperatures  located in museums, libraries, swimming spots, and green spaces have been created.

Climate Action Plan was created in 2018, with Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo at its head. Reducing vehicle traffic during heatwaves was noted as a key strategy. The mayor promised that by 2030, police would prevent the vehicles that pollute the most from being driven in the city during peak heat periods.

The plan outlined ways of improving building insulation and ventilation, changing construction guidelines that are adapted to the consequences of climate change like surging summer heat. It also set out to revolutionise Parisian roofs, stating that by 2050 all roofs must “produce at least one” of the following resources: renewable energy with solar panels, food through urban agriculture or water through rainwater collection and storage.  

For Masselot, both long-term and short-term solutions are necessary. “In the short term, it would be important for public health authorities to identify people at risk [of dying from a heatwave] so they can be notified in advance that high temperatures are looming and find ways of cooling down,” he says. “In the long term, cities will need more green spaces, less asphalt, but also to change their buildings so they store less heat, decrease pollution and ensure that they tend to populations with higher health risks,” Masselot explains.

To its credit, the city has acknowledged the vulnerability of its populace and is diligently working on implementing necessary measures. “Paris is far from being the black sheep when it comes to adapting for heatwaves,” says Masselot.

However, the urgency to act cannot be overstated. “Things are going to get worse and there will be longer heatwaves as time goes on,” he says. “Cities need to prepare for that as soon as possible.”

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Key dates to remember ahead of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris

Paris is gearing up for a summer of sports as it prepares to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The city is already abuzz with preparations for the opening ceremony, test events and the journey of the Olympic torch relay. FRANCE 24 takes a look at the key dates leading up to start of the 2024 Summer Games.

Issued on:

The countdown is on. On July 26, 2024, the Summer Olympics will kick off in Paris, followed shortly after by the Paralympic Games. For nearly a month the French capital will become the focus of international sport as it hosts more than 300 competitions between July 26 and August 11.

July 9-16, 2023: Marseilles sailing test event

The Paris 2024 Organising Committee is holding a sailing test event in Marseilles to evaluate the infrastructure and racing areas in preparation for the Olympic Games.

July 26, 2023: D-365 to the Olympic Games

On July 26, 2023, the 365-day countdown to the official start of the Games in Paris begins, coinciding with the 100-year anniversary of the last Summer Games held on French soil. FRANCE 24 will dedicate a special day across its platforms to celebrate the event.

August 17-20, 2023: Paris triathlon test event

Paris and its iconic Alexandre III bridge will host an Olympic and Paralympic Games triathlon test event from August 17-20. Individual races will take place on August 17 and 18, a para-triathlon will be held on the 19th and the mixed relay on August 20.

July 26 and 27, 2023: French youth golf championships

The Olympic configuration of the Golf National de Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines will be put to the test during the French Youth Championship on July 26 and 27.

August 2-6, 2023: World Rowing Under 19 Championship

Vaires-sur-Marne stadium will host tests for sprint canoeing, slalom canoeing and rowing events. Rowing will serve as the inaugural test event for Paris 2024 during the U19 World Championships.  

August 5-6, 2023: Fourth stage of the open water world cup

A round of the Open Water Swimming World Cup will take place in the Seine near Alexandre III bridge.

August 11-20, 2023: World surfing league (WSL) stopover in Tahiti

Even France’s overseas territories will get a taste of Olympic fever, hosting surfing events in Tahiti, French Polynesia, on the legendary Teahupo’o wave. The WSL 2023 will assess the venue’s Olympic preparations in coordination with the Paris Olympic committee.

August 19- 20, 2023: Fourth stage of the archery world cup

Archery will take centre stage against the backdrop of the iconic Paris Les Invalides landmark. The fourth leg of the 2023 World Cup will be held in Paris, offering a glimpse at the future archery venue for the Games.

August 28, 2023: 365 Days until the Paralympic Games

Since their first appearance in Rome in 1960, the Paralympic Games have grown in importance. As the world’s leading parasport event, they are a unique opportunity for athletes with disabilities. One year before the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games, FRANCE 24 will dedicate a special edition to this event.

August 30 to September 1, 2023: Canoeing and para-canoeing World Cups

Following rowing events, the Vaires-sur-Marne Olympic site will test sprint canoeing and para-canoeing during the World Cup held at the centre.

September 2023: Volunteers receive their assignments

Between September and the end of the year, the Paris organising committee will notify the 45,000 selected volunteers for the Olympic Games about their specific assignments. However, some may be called upon during the summer to participate in test events, such as the sailing event in Marseilles or the triathlon in Paris.

September 23 and 24, 2023: MTB test event

This will be a dress rehearsal for the Olympic Games. A preparatory race for the mountain bike event of Paris 2024 will be held on September 23-24 at Élancourt Hill, the highest point in the Île-de-France region, located in the Yvelines department.

October 5-8, 2023: Canoe slalom world cup finals

The final test event at the Vaires-sur-Marne centre will be the canoe slalom World Cup finals.

October 9, 2023: Paralympic Games tickets open

Official ticket sales for the Paralympic Games, scheduled from August 28 to September 8, 2024, will open this October 9. Half of the tickets available for sale will be priced at €25 or less.

April 8-14, 2024: Event at Châteauroux national shooting centre

Test competitions are scheduled to take place at the Châteauroux national shooting centre in Indre from April 8-14, 2024.

April 29, 2024: 100 days until the Olympic Games

From April 29 to May 8, 2024: Olympic aquatic centre test event

The final venue to be completed, the Saint-Denis Olympic Aquatic Centre, will be put to the test with targeted events featuring artistic swimming, diving and water polo from April 29 to May 8, 2024.

May 4-5, 2024: Field hockey test event

Yves-du-Manoir stadium in Colombes will be put to the test with an international field hockey tournament from May 4-5, 2024. While the venue may have changed since the 1924 Olympic Games, it remains a direct legacy of the last Summer Olympics in the French capital.

May 8, 2024: Arrival of the Olympic flame in Marseilles

After a 10-day journey from Greece on the Belém, one of Europe‘s oldest three-masted sailing ships, the Olympic flame will arrive in France. Marseilles, with its strong historical ties to Greece, will first welcome the flame to its shores before it embarks on the 775km (480 mile) journey to the capital.

July 14, 2024: Arrival of the Olympic flame in Paris

After traversing more than 60 French departments, the Olympic flame will arrive in Paris on July 14, the Bastille Day national holiday.

July 24, 2024: Start of events

Some team sports will kick off even before the opening ceremony. The Rugby 7s and soccer matches will begin on July 24, while handball starts the following day.

July 26, 2024: Olympic Games opening ceremony

Paris will kick off the Games with a spectacular opening ceremony on July 26, 2024. Organised outside of a stadium for the first time, the ceremony will start at 8:24pm as approximately 100 boats carrying the athlete delegations set sail down the Seine from Pont d’Austerlitz in the east to the Eiffel Tower.

August 11, 2024: Olympic Games closing ceremony

The closing ceremony of the Paris Olympics will take place at the Stade de France, but it won’t mark the end of the Olympic sequence as the Paralympic Games will take some 17 days later.

August 28, 2024: Paralympic Games opening ceremony

As one competition ends, another begins. The first-ever French Paralympic Games will open on August 28 for 11 days of competition with an open-air ceremony between the Champs-Élysées and Place de la Concorde.

September 8, 2024: Paralympic Games closing ceremony

That’s a wrap for Paris 2024: The Paralympic Games will come to a close, bringing an end to Paris’s Olympic summer.  

The article was adapted from French. To read the original click here.

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More than 900 arrested overnight as rioters clash with French police

Young rioters clashed with police and looted stores overnight Friday in a fourth night of unrest in France triggered by the deadly police shooting of a teen, piling more pressure on President Emmanuel Macron after he appealed to parents to keep children off the streets.

While the situation appeared to be somewhat calmer compared to previous nights, turmoil gripped several cities across the country.

Firefighters in the Parisian suburb of Nanterre, where the shooting occurred Tuesday, extinguished the blazes set by protesters that left scorched remains of cars strewn across the streets. In the neighbouring suburb Colombes, protesters overturned garbage bins and used them for makeshift barricades.

Looters during the evening broke into a gun shop and made off with weapons, and a man was later arrested with a hunting rifle, police said, and in the southern Mediterranean port city of Marseille, officers arrested nearly 90 people as groups of protesters lit cars on fire and broke store windows to take what was inside.

Buildings and businesses were also vandalised in the eastern city of Lyon, where a third of the roughly 30 arrests made were for theft, police said. Authorities reported fires in the streets after an unauthorised protest drew more than 1,000 people earlier in the evening.

By about 3 am, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told cable news channel BFMTV that 471 arrests were made at night.

The fatal shooting of the 17-year-old, who has only been identified by his first name, Nahel, was captured on video, stirring up long-simmering tensions between police and young people in housing projects and disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

Nahel’s burial is scheduled for Saturday, according to Nanterre Mayor Patrick Jarry, who said France needs to “push for changes” in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

Despite repeated government appeals for calm and stiffer policing, Friday saw brazen daylight violence, too. An Apple store was looted in the eastern city of Strasbourg, where police fired tear gas, and the windows of a fast-food outlet were smashed in a Paris-area shopping mall, where officers repelled people trying to break into a shuttered store, authorities said.

Violence was also erupting in some of France’s territories overseas.

Some 150 police officers were deployed Friday night on the small Indian Ocean island of Reunion, authorities said, after protesters set garbage bins ablaze, threw projectiles at police and damaged cars and buildings. In French Guiana, a 54-year-old was killed by a stray bullet Thursday night when rioters fired at police in the capital, Cayenne, authorities said.

In the face of the escalating crisis that hundreds of arrests and massive police deployments have failed to quell, Macron held off on declaring a state of emergency. This option was used in similar circumstances in 2005.

Instead, his government ratcheted up its law enforcement response. Already massively beefed-up police forces were boosted by another 5,000 officers for Friday night, increasing the number to 45,000 overall, the interior minister said. 

Some were called back from vacation. The minister, Darmanin, said police made 917 arrests on Thursday alone and noted their young age – 17 on average. He said more than 300 police officers and firefighters have been injured.

It was unclear how many protesters have been injured in the clashes.

Darmanin on Friday ordered a nationwide nighttime shutdown of all public buses and trams, which have been among rioters’ targets. He also said he warned social networks not to allow themselves to be used as channels for calls to violence.

“They were very cooperative,” Darmanin said, adding that French authorities were providing the platforms with information in hopes of cooperation in identifying people inciting violence.

“We will pursue every person who uses these social networks to commit violent acts,” he said.

Macron, too, zeroed in on social media platforms that have relayed dramatic images of vandalism and cars and buildings being torched, saying they were playing a “considerable role” in the violence. Singling out Snapchat and TikTok, he said they were being used to organise unrest and served as conduits for copycat violence.

Macron said his government would work with technology companies to establish procedures for “the removal of the most sensitive content,” adding that he expected “a spirit of responsibility” from them.

Snapchat spokesperson Rachel Racusen said the company has increased its moderation since Tuesday to detect and act on content related to the rioting.

The violence comes just over a year before Paris and other French cities are due to host 10,500 Olympians and millions of visitors for the summer Olympic Games. Organisers said they are closely monitoring the situation as preparations for the Olympics continue.

The police officer accused of killing Nahel was handed a preliminary charge of voluntary homicide, which means investigating magistrates strongly suspect wrongdoing but need to investigate more before sending a case to trial. Nanterre prosecutor Pascal Prache said his initial investigation led him to conclude that the officer’s use of his weapon wasn’t legally justified.

Prache said officers tried to pull Nahel over because he looked so young and was driving a Mercedes with Polish license plates in a bus lane. He allegedly ran a red light to avoid being stopped and then got stuck in traffic.

The officer said he feared he and his colleague or someone else could be hit by the car as Nahel attempted to flee, according to the prosecutor.

Nahel’s mother, identified as Mounia M, told France 5 television that she was angry at the officer but not at the police in general. “He saw a little Arab-looking kid, he wanted to take his life,” she said, adding that justice should be “very firm”.

“A police officer cannot take his gun and fire at our children, take our children’s lives,” she said.

Deadly use of firearms is less common in France than in the United States, although 13 people who didn’t comply with traffic stops were fatally shot by French police last year. This year, another three people, including Nahel, died under similar circumstances. 

The deaths have prompted demands for more accountability in France, which also saw racial justice protests after George Floyd’s killing by police in Minnesota.

Race was a taboo topic for decades in France, which is officially committed to a doctrine of colourblind universalism. In the wake of Nahel’s killing, French anti-racism activists renewed complaints about police behaviour in general.

This week’s protests echoed the three weeks of rioting in 2005 that followed the deaths of 15-year-old Bouna Traoré and 17-year-old Zyed Benna, who were electrocuted while hiding from police in a power substation in Clichy-sous-Bois.

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Paris summit aims to overhaul global financial system for ‘climate solidarity’ with South

Around 50 heads of state, along with representatives from international institutions and civil society, will attend a summit hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday and Friday in Paris. Their objective is to develop a new global financial system so the most vulnerable countries will be better equipped to combat both poverty and climate change. 

The world’s wealthiest nations are demonstrating a “surge of solidarity” with those most vulnerable to climate change, said Cécile Duflot, president of the NGO Oxfam. Some 50 heads of state and government, representatives from international financial institutions, members of the private sector, climate experts and members of civil society will be attending the summit in Paris hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron on June 22 and 23. The objective of this ambitious conference is to “build a new contract between [the global] North and South”, according to the Élysée Palace.  

Macron announced his intention to host this summit at the end of COP27 back in November, 2022. Environmentalists were not satisfied with how the climate negotiations had concluded. But in the final hours, a historic agreement was reached providing for the establishment of a fund to compensate for the effects of climate change suffered by developing countries. The initial aim of this week’s Summit for a New Global Financial Pact was to establish concrete measures to finance this fund. “From now on, the battle against poverty, the decarbonisation of our economy and the fight for biodiversity will be very closely linked,” Macron said at the time.  

In the months since, the stakes have only heightened for countries in the Global South due to the combined fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the climate crisis and galloping inflation. In the Palais Brongniart at Place de la Bourse, once the seat of the Paris stock exchange in the 2nd arrondissement (district), the hundreds of attendees will attempt to lay the foundations for an overhaul of the entire global financial system by adapting the post-war Bretton Woods institutions – the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank – to today’s challenges. 

On Wednesday, 13 political leaders – including Macron, US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva – wrote that they are “urgently working to fight poverty and inequalities” in a contribution to French daily newspaper Le Monde.

“Climate change will generate larger and more frequent disasters, and disproportionately affect the poorest, most vulnerable populations around the world,” they wrote. “These challenges cross borders and pose existential risks to societies and economies.”

“We want our system to deliver more for the planet.”

Colossal financial needs

The financial needs of the Global South are colossal. A group of independent experts, specialising in climate finance and working under the auspices of the United Nations, estimated last year that the world needs to allocate $1 trillion a year between now and 2030 for developing countries besides China to respond to the climate and biodiversity crisis. 

Oxfam estimates that $27 trillion will have to be mobilised to “fight poverty, inequality and climate change in developing countries” between now and 2030, i.e., around $3.9 trillion a year. The World Bank put this estimate even higher, outlining in its 2021 climate action plan that $4 trillion a year will be needed between now and 2030 to build infrastructure that meets the needs of developing countries.    

Governments present at the summit for a new global financial pact this week will not be making financial pledges but are instead expected to discuss the most effective means of financing. The first items on the agenda are those based on already established commitments.

“Developed countries have already pledged to allocate 0.7% of their wealth to developing countries and to contribute $100 billion to the climate. But for the moment, these funds have only been partially distributed, if at all,” said Désiré Assogbavi, the director for French-speaking Africa at ONE, a global anti-poverty NGO, at a press conference on Tuesday.  

G7 countries in 2021 considered reallocating $100 billion in Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), an IMF reserve currency that is proportional to a country’s capital, to developing countries.

“This measure has been blocked in the eurozone, but this could easily be resolved by a political decision,” said Assogbavi, calling for the blockage to be lifted “by the end of the year”.

“On the last day of the summit, we hope that very clear mechanisms will be announced so that each of these commitments can be implemented.”

Taxes on major polluters and financial transactions

At the same time, new sources of funding will need to be explored. Within civil society, several associations and NGOs are already putting forward a number of ideas. First, they are calling for taxes to be introduced on the biggest polluters, in particular fossil fuel companies, due to “their historic responsibility for climate chaos”. In early June, 12 associations signed a petition asking Macron to tax the fossil fuel industry. They had gathered more than 31,000 signatures as of June 21. “This tax would enable us to raise up to $300 trillion,” said Fanny Petitbon, head of advocacy for the NGO CARE France. 

“Why not also introduce a tax on financial transactions, which would raise $440 billion?” asked Petitbon. The principle of this tax is simple: given the scale of the transactions carried out on the financial markets, applying even a very low tax rate would help raise significant tax revenue without having any impact on how the markets work. 

Ahead of the Paris summit, only a consensus on taxing maritime transport seems to be emerging, which could generate between $60 and $80 billion a year, according to the World Bank. “The subject could come to fruition in July when the International Maritime Organisation meets,” said Petitbon. “But the question of how the money will be used has yet to be decided. While some advocate that it should go to developing countries, others are calling for it to be used to decarbonise the maritime sector.”

Debt relief

In addition to the major issue of financing, the other dossier on the table is the debt owed by developing countries. “Debt servicing for developing countries is at its highest level since the end of the 1990s, and 93% of the countries most vulnerable to climate-related disasters are over-indebted, or not far from it,” said Lison Rehbinder, development finance advocacy officer at the CCFD-Terre Solidaire NGO.

“Today, countries in crisis are forced to repay their debts to creditor states, financial institutions and private banks, and this prevents them from investing in public services or fighting against climate change,” she said. 

For the moment, the plan under discussion is to introduce clauses in loan contracts that would allow repayments to be suspended in the event of a climate disaster, according to Rehbinder. Adopted by G20 countries during the Covid-19 pandemic, this measure would become automatic. “But we need to go further and think about large-scale debt cancellation,” she said. “That’s the only way for countries to get their heads above water.”

Harjeet Singh, head of global policy strategy at Climate Action Network International, agreed. “The richest countries continue to mostly provide the countries of the South with loans – in 2020, grants accounted for just 26% of committed climate funding,” he said. “The fight against climate change must quickly move away from this profit-driven logic.”

The associations argue that it will only be possible to implement all these measures if the major multilateral development banks, primarily the World Bank, adopt bolder lending policies. 

Political will

France acknowledges, however, that Paris will not be able to make any concrete decisions at this summit. According to the Élysée Palace, the meeting’s main purpose is to draw up a guide that will be used at the next G20 summit in India in September, the annual meetings of the IMF and World Bank in October, and COP28 in Dubai in early December. 

“This event will put many important issues at the centre of international discussions,” said Duflot. “Unfortunately, it is still too unambitious, though we can no longer wait to implement far-reaching solutions.” 

“It’s not the money that’s lacking, but the political will. The heads of government must now shoulder their responsibilities,” said Petitbon. “Because beyond funding, it’s all about rebuilding trust between the countries of the North and South.”

This article has been translated from the original in French

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Paris joins celebration of Irish language’s renaissance as it marks 50 years in EU

The Irish Cultural Centre in Paris held a ‘Festival of Ideas’ event from June 15 to June 17 to join in the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Ireland joining the European Union on January 1, 1973. The final day’s activities consisted of panel discussions and concerts celebrating all things Irish, from the Irish language to traditional music and cuisine.

Located in Paris’s 5th arrondissement (district), the Irish Cultural Centre (ICC) was inaugurated in 2002 on the site of a former Roman Catholic educational establishment for Irish students, with even a small chapel on the site. The names of the different dioceses throughout the island of Ireland can also still be seen when wandering through the open courtyard, which had rows of chairs set up in front of a stage for Sunday’s big events.

The courtyard of the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris, France on June 17, 2023. © Mariamne Everett

From June 15 to June 17, the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris held its “inaugural” Festival of Ideas to celebrate Ireland’s relationship with the European Union (EU), “enable our public to engage with contemporary Ireland and to discover current preoccupations such as the renaissance of the Irish language” said Nora Hickey M’Sichili, the centre’s director.

Celebration of the Irish language

The Irish language featured heavily in many of the panel discussions.

The official language of Ireland along with English, the Irish language has undergone a long journey within the EU. When Ireland first joined the EU on January 1, 1973, Irish was listed as a treaty language. However, it eventually gained full official and working status on January 1, 2022, putting it on par with the EU’s 23 other official languages.

“Language is political and to be an Irish speaker is political,” said Irish language activist Aodán Mac Séafraidh, encapsulating the sentiment of many of the panellists discussing the politicisation of the Irish language on Sunday. Each speaker clearly had their own relationship with the Irish language and it “was interesting to hear all these varied ideas about the Irish language outside of an academic setting”, said Sean Ryan, a communications professor at ISCOM. This festival also “reflects this wider need of people to exchange ideas and be open to ones that differ from their own”, said Ryan.

Speaking at the Festival of Ideas event, (from left to right) Professor of Social and Political Philosophy Helder de Schutter, Irish language activist Aodán Mac Séafraidh and mediator William Howard at the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris, France on June 17, 2023.
Speaking at the Festival of Ideas event, (from left to right) Professor of Social and Political Philosophy Helder de Schutter, Irish language activist Aodán Mac Séafraidh and mediator William Howard at the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris, France on June 17, 2023. © Mariamne Everett

Mac Séafraidh is a member of the language and culture project Turas at the charity East Belfast Mission, located in a traditionally Protestant area of Belfast. Turas (which means journey or pilgrimage in both Irish and Scots Gaelic) is “an Irish language project which aims to connect people from Protestant communities to their own history with the Irish language”.

Increase in Irish spoken

For years, said Mac Séafraidh, the Irish language was associated with Irish republicanism, but it can now be used as “a vehicle for reconciliation” between the nationalist and unionist communities in Northern Ireland. Banned several times throughout the island of Ireland’s history, the UK introduced the Identity and Language Act on May 31, 2022, officially recognising the status of the Irish language for the first time in Northern Ireland.

In recent years, the Irish language has become more widely spoken across the island of Ireland. According to the latest census data from the Irish Central Statistics Office, the number of people who said that they could speak Irish increased by 6% between 2016 and 2022 to 1,873,997 (out of a population nearing 6 million). The latest census data from Northern Ireland shows that the number of people who said they could speak Irish rose from 10.65% in 2011 to 12.45% in 2021 (out of a population nearing 2 million), while the number of people who said they spoke it as their main language rose from 4,164 in 2011 to 6,000 in 2021.

The Irish language is not only experiencing “a renaissance” in Ireland, but also in France. In addition to holding events and concerts, the ICC offers Irish language courses from levels A1 to B2. During a concert by Irish singer Jack L on Sunday, William Howard, one of the event’s organisers, said that when he “started teaching Irish at the ICC in September 2021, it was quite easy for people to sign up to take classes. However, there are now waiting lists for all four classes. The students are mostly Irish and French, but we also get a small number from other nationalities”.

Members of An Gaeltacht-sur-Seine enjoy a picnic at lunchtime during the Festival of Ideas event at the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris, France on June 17, 2023.
Members of An Gaeltacht-sur-Seine enjoy a picnic at lunchtime during the Festival of Ideas event at the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris, France on June 17, 2023. © Mariamne Everett

At lunchtime, in between bites of sausage and colcannon (mashed potatoes mixed with cabbage), Irish and French visitors alike had the opportunity to chat with members of An Gaeltacht-Sur-Seine, a group that meets once a month to speak Irish. The Festival of Ideas is “a nice occasion to meet new people and Irish people. It makes me proud to see French people wanting to learn about Irish culture”, said member Linda Moloney in French, respecting the group’s rule to only speak in Irish (and in French only when necessary) on Sunday.

Ireland and the EU

“I think it is a great idea to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ireland joining the European Union. Some people at the time were against joining the EU, they were even scared that Irish people would leave Ireland. But we’ve only had benefits from EU membership, from cultural to economic and being less dependent on the UK,” said An Gaeltacht-Sur-Seine member Philomena Begley. This sentiment was echoed in a panel discussion after lunch by Irish journalist and broadcaster Dearbhail McDonald, who said that “joining the EU lessened our dependence on the UK and also had economic and social benefits, especially for women and girls”. For instance, EU legislation led to the abolition of the Marriage Bar act, which had mandated that women resign from their jobs once they had gotten married, in 1973.

McDonald continues: “When we joined the European Union, we were a poor country that received over €40 billion in EU funds between 1973 and 2018.” Times have changed since then. Between 2018 and 2020, Ireland contributed €377 million in average net contributions. Despite being more prosperous now thanks to high-tech industry and global exports, the EU continues to greatly support Ireland. As recently as December 12, 2022, the European Commission approved a €1.2 billion scheme to support Irish companies affected by the war in Ukraine.

Priest Aidan Troy poses with attendees of the Festival of Ideas event at the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris, France on June 17, 2023.
Priest Aidan Troy poses with attendees of the Festival of Ideas event at the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris, France on June 17, 2023. © Mariamne Everett

The repercussions from Brexit and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in particular have seen Ireland grapple with its historic policy of neutrality now that it plays a bigger role in the EU, said McDonald. Soon after establishing itself as an independent republic in 1937, Ireland adopted a policy of neutrality when World War II began as a means of both countering the potential threat from Germany and resisting the historical imperial power of the UK. An Irish Times poll published on Saturday revealed that 61% of voters favoured the state’s current model of military neutrality, while only 26% said they would like to see it change. On the other hand, 55% of voters supported “significantly increasing Ireland’s military capacity” to defend airspace and territorial waters, while a majority of other voters said they were in favour of seeking help from other countries for the country’s defence needs. This poll came as the Irish government prepares to hold a series of public discussions about the future of Ireland’s neutrality and defence policy next week. McDonald finished the panel discussion by pondering Ireland’s future within the EU: “What does Ireland’s future in the EU look like, given that it values its neutrality but also wants to increase defence spending and show support for Ukraine [in its war against Russia]?”

Ireland also celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement this year on April 10. This political deal was signed by the British and Irish governments, and Northern Ireland’s major political parties on April 10, 1998. It is credited with bringing an end to most of the violence associated with The Troubles, a sectarian conflict that began in the late 1960s between the overwhelmingly Protestant unionists, or loyalists, who wanted the region to remain part of the UK, and the overwhelmingly Catholic nationalists, or republicans, who wished to see Northern Ireland become part of the Republic of Ireland. The final panel on Sunday was a discussion between McDonald and Aidan Troy, a priest who received death threats in June 2001 while he was stationed in Ardoyne, Belfast for accompanying Catholic parents and children along loyalist parts of Belfast every day for three months. He said that he had accompanied these parents and children on their way to school in the hopes of protecting them, as they were being harassed by some loyalists living in the area. This incident clearly demonstrated that “The Troubles didn’t end with a stroke of a pen”, said McDonald. Troy said that the biggest lesson he learnt from his time in Belfast was that “there’s only two things you can do when you’re confronted with violence, you can either demonise your enemy or you can talk to them”.

A celebration of Irish culture

The final events of the day featured musical performances by indie-folk singer and songwriter Inni-K as well as Séamus and Caoimhe Uí Fhlatharta, a duo from Connemara (a region of Co. Galway, in western Ireland). Both acts performed traditional Irish music using traditional Irish instruments, including the bodhrán (a frame drum), blended with Sean-nós singing, which is generally unaccompanied traditional Irish singing performed in the Irish language. In between songs, Seamus Uí Fhlatharta told the crowd that he loved “having the opportunity to play around with a genre [Sean-nós singing] that is generally quite rigid. This is what this festival is all about”!

Connemara duo Séamus and Caoimhe Uí Fhlatharta peform traditional music and song in their mother tongue of Irish at the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris, France on June 17, 2023.
Connemara duo Séamus and Caoimhe Uí Fhlatharta peform traditional music and song in their mother tongue of Irish at the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris, France on June 17, 2023. © Mariamne Everett

Even at the end of a day where events had been interrupted by heavy rain more than once, which necessitated a quick change of venue, the festival’s attendees seemed happy overall and overjoyed at having spent the day listening to different panels and musicians, immersing themselves in Irish culture and meeting members of the Irish community. “In my opinion, there hasn’t been so much excitement, creativity and joy in being Irish since the 1996 ‘L’imaginaire Irlandais’ [Irish Imagination] festival in France! The unbridled joy we’ve felt over the past 3 days has brought me back to my youth in Ireland,” said Patricia Killeen, one of the leaders of Le Cercle Littéraire Irlandais (The Irish Literary Circle) and a freelance writer. “I hope that the ICC will be there, with its rich cultural agenda, and lovely ambiance of welcome and inclusion, for our children, and their children’s children, for the French to explore” and remain “a cultural and community haven for Irish people living in Paris,” concluded Killeen.

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French pension protests: Brav-M, the special police unit accused of using excessive force

They ride in pairs, are armed with handguns, expandable batons and tear gas grenades, and have been specially trained to prevent protests from spiralling out of control. But since France’s pension protests began, officers belonging to France’s special Brav-M motorbike unit have increasingly been accused of taking the law into their own hands, intimidating and threatening people, and in some cases, resorting to the use of excessive force.

On Friday, four days after Paris was the scene of one of the most violent demonstrations in years as hundreds of thousands of people thronged the streets to protest the government’s pension reform, French daily Le Monde and online video broadcaster Loopsider published a troubling audio recording.

In the nearly 20-minute-long clip, police officers are heard humiliating and menacing a young man, who claims to be from Chad, telling him that if they see him on the streets again “you won’t be getting into a police van to go to the station, you will be getting into something else, called an ambulance, and go to hospital”.

Two slaps can also be heard in the audio.

According to the two media outlets that published the recording, the police officers heard speaking belong to the Motorised Brigades for the Repression of Violent Action (Brav-M) which has increasingly come under fire for its unorthodox and violent methods of dealing with protesters.

 


 

Paris police chief Laurent Nuñez immediately condemned the incident, calling the behaviour both “unacceptable” and unethical, telling French broadcaster France 5 that: “Like everyone else, I’m very shocked.”

Nuñez said the incident had been referred to the special police unit for internal investigations.

 

 

So who are they?

Brav-M saw the light of the day in the spring of 2019, in the midst of France’s Yellow Vest movement, after suspected anarchists vandalised and plundered shops and cafés along Paris’s famed Champs-Elysées boulevard and set fire to the renowned Le Fouquet restaurant.

“The idea was to be able to intervene quickly [in places] larger units couldn’t get to” or to which regular officers were too heavily equipped to access fast enough, Patrick Lunel, a police commander who helped set the unit up, told the AFP news agency.  

Since then, Brav-M has grown into six units comprised of 18 so-called operators each and just as many motorbike drivers for a total of 92 “duos” . By the 2024 Paris Olympics, that number is set to rise to 150, according to Stéphane Boscariol, who heads the force.

The fact that they ride in pairs (one driver, and one operator who can immediately jump off the motorcycle to chase down a suspect), makes the unit much faster and more efficient than regular riot police forces (CRS) and gendarmes in vans and cars.

The Brav-M unit is deployed to Paris and its closest suburbs with the main task of containing demonstrations or dispersing them should they get out of hand, but also to intervene in situations of urban violence and vandalism and to support other police units should they encounter difficulties. Thanks to their agility, Brav-M officers can carry out arrests within crowds, which they then hand over to judiciary officers.

Each Brav-M officer is equipped with either a white (driver) or a black (operator) helmet, a bulletproof vest, a police radio and a body cam which is handed in at the end of each shift. But they are also armed, and carry SIG-Sauer handguns, expandable truncheons, hand-held tear gas grenades and blast balls. Each of the Brav-M’s six units also has four riot shields, a flash-ball gun and a grenade launcher.  

Reminiscent of France’s notorious ‘Voltigeurs’?

Brav-M is not France’s first motorbike-carried unit. Its predecessor was called “Les Voltigeurs” (The Acrobats) and was founded in 1969 as a response to France’s violent student riots that broke out in May, 1968. The squad was disbanded in 1986, however, after a 22-year-old French-Algerian student, Malik Oussekine, died at the hands of three of the unit’s officers.

Oussekine had been walking near a student protest when he was suddenly chased down by police and beaten to death in the entrance of a building. Oussekine had not been involved in the protest, and his death, which was witnessed by a civil servant, sparked outrage in France – especially since Oussekine had a history of health problems and therefore was an unlikely participant of demonstration violence – and led to the force being shut down.  

Since Brav-M was founded four years ago, some have likened it to the Voltigeurs force, but according to police, it would be “a mistake” to draw any similarities.

“We have people who are specialised in maintaining order, and are trained to do just that, who are on motorcycles and who intervene like paratroopers,”  Jérôme Foucaud, a senior police officer, told AFP.

Under investigation

Still, since the pension protests began in mid-January, AFP, which cites a police source, says at least two Brav-M police officers have come under investigation for applying brutal tactics while “maintaining order”.

In the first incident, which was filmed, a Brav-M officer was accused of using excessive force after punching a man in the face while the man was lying on the ground. Nuñez called the act “improper”. Brav-M, however, claims the images that show the incident have been taken “badly out of context”, and that the man who was beaten was “drunk”.

In the second case, a woman claims to have been beaten by Brav-M officers in Paris’s central Châtelet neighbourhood – a day before the latest pension protest was held.

READ MORE>> Use of force signals ‘crisis of authority’ as France’s pension battle turns to unrest

In a letter sent to Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin on Wednesday, three lawmakers representing the hard-left La France Insoumise (France unbowed) – Thomas Portes, Antoine Léaument and Ugo Bernalicis – called for the “temporary dismantlement of Brav-M”. On Thursday, a petition to dismantle the unit was also posted on the National Assembly’s website.

Nuñez, however, told French broadcaster Franceinfo on Saturday, that a dismantlement was “obviously not on the agenda”.

“The behaviour of a few individuals shouldn’t make a whole unit pay and which has in recent years, and particularly at the moment, proved its usefulness,” he said.

Nuñez insisted that the unit is “an indispensable unit for the maintenance of republican order”.

 

 

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)



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Critics claim Paris using 2024 Games to introduce Big Brother video surveillance

France’s National Assembly is due to adopt a law on Tuesday ahead of the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. Article 7 is the most controversial aspect of this law, as it will allow AI video surveillance to be used to detect abnormal behaviour. Human rights organisations and the French left have condemned the measure.  

The all-encompassing law that France’s National Assembly is due to adopt on March 28, ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, will allow shops to open on Sundays, establish a health centre in the department of Seine-Saint-Denis (located northeast of Paris) and permit the French state to investigate future accredited persons. However, Article 7 of this law is particularly controversial, as it states that AI video surveillance may be used, on a trial basis, to ensure the safety of the Olympic Games. Human rights groups say the use of this technology will set a dangerous precedent.  

During the preliminary phase, Article 7 was adopted by the presidential majority, France’s right-wing party Les Républicains and the far-right National Rally. The New Ecological and Social People’s Union (NUPES), a coalition of left-wing parties, opposed it. It will allow algorithm-driven video surveillance technology to be used to ensure the safety of large-scale “sporting, recreational or cultural events” on a trial basis.  

‘An all-out assault on rights to privacy’

“Algorithmic video surveillance is a new form of technology that uses computer software to analyse images captured by surveillance cameras in real time,” explains Arnaud Touati, a lawyer specialised in digital law. “The algorithms used in the software are notably based on machine learning technology, which allows AI video surveillance, over time, to continue to improve and adapt to new situations.” 

Proponents of this technology claim to be able to anticipate crowd movements and spot abandoned luggage or potentially dangerous incidents. Compared to traditional video surveillance, everything is automated with algorithms in charge of analysis – which, according to those in favour of this technology, limits human errors. 

“While France promotes itself as a champion of human rights globally, its decision to legalize AI-powered mass surveillance during the Olympics will lead to an all-out assault on the rights to privacy, protest, and freedom of assembly and expression,” Amnesty International said in a statement after the article was passed. 

A herald of future video surveillance across Europe? 

Katia Roux, the NGO’s technology and human rights specialist, explains that this technology can elicit many fears. “Under international law, legislation must respect the strict principles of necessity and proportionality. In this case, however, the legislator has not demonstrated this,” she says. “We are talking about assessment technology, which has to evaluate behaviours and categorise them as at risk so that measures can be taken afterwards.”  


TECH 24 © FRANCE 24

 

“This technology is not legal today. In France, experiments have been done but not within the legal framework that this law proposes to create,” she said. “Nor is it legal at the European level. It is even brought up during discussions in the European Parliament about technology and the regulation of artificial intelligence systems. The legislation could therefore also violate the European regulation currently being drafted.” 

“By adopting this law, France would become the champion of video surveillance in the EU and set an extremely dangerous precedent. It would send an extremely worrying signal to countries that might be tempted to use this technology against their own population,” she continued. 

Discriminatory? 

One fear is that the seemingly cold and infallible algorithm may in fact contain discriminatory biases. “These algorithms are going to be trained using a set of data decided and designed by human beings. They will therefore be able to incorporate the discriminatory biases of the people who conceived and designed them,” says Roux. 

“AI video surveillance has already been used for racist purposes, notably by China, in the exclusive surveillance of the Uighurs, a Muslim minority present in the country,” says Touati. “Because ethnic minorities are under-represented in the data provided to the algorithms for learning-purposes, there are significant discriminatory and racist biases. According to an MIT study, while the facial recognition error is 1% for White men, it is 34% for Black women.” 

Touati, however, wants to see the glass as half full. “Using AI video surveillance during events of this magnitude could also highlight the algorithm’s discriminatory, misogynistic and racist biases by identifying, at too high a frequency to be accurate, people from minority ethnic groups as potential suspects,” he explains. 

When asked by members of the left-wing opposition coalition NUPES what kind of people AI video surveillance would be targeting, the French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said, “Not [ones wearing] hoodies.”  The French government believes that the limits set by the law – the absence of facial recognition, data protection – will be enough to prevent discriminatory practices.  

“We have put safeguards in place so that tenders are only reserved for companies that respect a certain number of rules, including hosting data on national territory, respecting the CNIL [National Commission on Informatics and Liberty; an independent French administrative regulatory body responsible for ensuring that data privacy law is applied to the collection, storage and use of personal data] and the GDPR [General Data Protection Regulation ; a data protection law introduced by the EU],” says MP Philippe Latombe, a member of the pro-Europe and centre-right political party Democratic Movement. He co-signed an amendment with the National Rally so that the call for tenders would give priority to European companies. “Clearly, we don’t want it to be a Chinese company that does data processing in China and uses the data to do something else.” 

“We are not reassured by the government’s guarantees. In reality, no real amendment is possible, and this technology is, in itself, problematic and dangerous for human rights,” says Roux. “It will remain so until a serious evaluation has been conducted, the necessity and proportionality of its use has been demonstrated, and a real debate has been held with civil society’s different actors on this issue.” 

Sports events and tech experiments

Although the Olympic Games are clearly the target event, this technological experiment can begin as soon as the law is implemented and will end on December 31, 2024, four months after the Paralympic Games finish. It could therefore be applied to a wide range of events, starting with the Rugby World Cup from September 8 to October 28.  

Opponents of AI video surveillance fear that its initially exceptional use will eventually become commonplace. After all, sports events are often used as a testing ground for policing, security and new technology. The 2012 London Olympics, for example, led to the widespread use of video surveillance in the British capital. 

“We are afraid that this exceptional period will become the norm,” explains Roux, who adds that voice recognition technology, which was deployed on an experimental basis during the 2018 World Cup in Russia, has since been used to repress the opposition.  

Finally, Amnesty International is concerned that video surveillance will eventually lead to biometric or voice surveillance. “Facial recognition is just a feature waiting to be activated,” says Roux. 

The law on the 2024 Olympic Games has not yet completed its legislative journey. Following Tuesday’s formal vote in the National Assembly, the text will undergo several changes and make multiple trips between the Assembly and Senate, which had previously amended it, until the two chambers agree to adopt it.  

Tech 24’s Peter O’Brien contributed to this article. 

This article has been translated from the original in French

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Macron kicks off Olympic countdown 500 days before Paris Games

French President Emmanuel Macron launched the countdown to the 2024 Paris Olympics on Tuesday, taking stock of preparations for the mammoth event as officials race to get the city’s transport network into shape and stage an opening ceremony unlike any other.  

Macron, who has promised an “unforgettable” curtain-raiser, hosted the Olympics’ organisers and business partners at the Élysée Palace to discuss preparations for the world’s biggest sporting event. He addressed several hundred civil servants involved in the effort in a speech at Paris police headquarters, on the banks of the River Seine, later Tuesday. 

On the eve of his visit, Macron teased the event by tweeting the cover of Time Magazine’s latest issue, headlined on the race to clean up “the world’s most romantic river”. 

“With 500 days to go, we are within reach of achieving one of the greatest legacies of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Paris,” the French president wrote, referencing a hugely ambitious 1.4-billion-euro plan to clean up the heavily polluted waterway in time for the Games. 


Making the Seine fit for swimming is an old Parisian dream. In 1988, former French president Jacques Chirac, then the city’s mayor, famously promised to make the river swimmable “in three years” – a pledge he never delivered on. 

The dream has become a necessity now that Paris has pledged to stage several Olympics events, including the 10 kilometre swimming marathon, in the Seine – as it did back in 1900, when it first hosted the Games. 

The prospect of athletes swimming down the world-famous river, alongside Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Eiffel Tower, was a major asset for the French capital’s bid to host the “biggest show on earth”. 


 

Olympia-sur-Seine 

The city’s famed waterway is the focus of another mammoth challenge for organisers of the 33rd Summer Olympiad, one that is bound to give French officials many a sleepless night over the coming 500 days. 

In perhaps the biggest gamble of Paris 2024, organisers plan to take the opening ceremony out of its traditional stadium setting and stage it on water. 

The vision, outlined by Macron, is for sporting delegations to sail down the Seine in an armada of boats, in view of up to 600,000 spectators lining the river’s banks over a six-kilometre stretch.  

The appeal of projecting such a bold statement of French ambition before a global TV audience of hundreds of millions is clear. Turning it into reality is said to be giving planners cold sweats. 

As the Games loom into view, the number of boats, the arrangements for spectators, crowd control and security measures are still the subject of intense discussions. A first practice run is expected in July this year, with 30 to 40 boats set to participate.   

“Everyone is working flat-out on preparations,” one senior French official involved in the process told AFP on condition of anonymity. “A ceremony like this has never taken place before. But we’ll manage it, we’ll be ready.” 

FRANCE IN FOCUS
FRANCE IN FOCUS © FRANCE 24

 

Some security experts have voiced concerns, however, warning about the dangers of uncontrolled crowd movements close to the water, and the challenges of securing such a long stretch of water with overlooking buildings. 

Sceptics point to the chaotic scenes at last year’s Champions League final in Paris, when Liverpool fans found themselves in a crush outside the stadium, as a reminder of the dangers of badly organised sporting events.  

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, who faced severe criticism for his handling of the Champions League fiasco, travelled to the World Cup in Qatar in November last year on a fact-finding mission. While there, he warned of the dangers of “a drone loaded with explosives that falls on a crowd, on an exposed team, on an opening ceremony like at the Olympic Games, for example”.

Transport woes 

For the opening ceremony, Darmanin is counting on 35,000 members of the security forces being on duty, with police already warned that requests for leave over the summer holiday period will not be permitted. 

The interior ministry has also suggested 25,000 private security agents should be used for less critical missions, with thousands currently being screened, recruited and trained. However, the low bids being offered by the organising committee mean many private security companies are struggling to recruit staff, another source close to the event told AFP. 

On Tuesday, Sports Minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra said there would be “no taboo” on drafting in the army if necessary, as was the case at the 2012 Olympics in London. 

In another recruitment headache, the Paris region’s transport system is scrambling to bounce back from a year of chronic staff shortages and sporadic strikes – one of which precipitated the chaos of the Champions League final. 

Like the football final, much of the Olympics will take place in the Seine-Saint-Denis département northeast of Paris, the poorest in metropolitan France and the most densely populated after Paris, known for its creaking transport infrastructure. 

There are serious questions about whether the extension of a key metro line to the Athletes’ Village will be completed in time for the Games and a major shortfall in the number of bus drivers is causing concerns too. 

“We will do everything we can to be ready in time,” Macron’s former prime minister Jean Castex, now in charge of the RATP transport operator, told reporters last week, promising a massive recruitment drive.


 

Adding to organisers’ woes, plans to break up the RATP’s monopoly on bus services soon after the Olympics threaten to throw a spanner in the works, with trade unions fiercely opposed to the move and the threat of industrial action hanging over the Games. 

Mindful of the tight schedule, Valérie Pécresse, the conservative head of the Paris region, has leveraged the Olympics to secure an additional 200-million-euro budget from the central government, threatening to delay the opening of new transport lines that fall under her remit. 

In the best-case scenario, transport will already be well short of what organisers promised when they submitted their final bid seven years ago. A future metro line that promised to link Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport with the Athletes’ Village in “under 30 minutes” will not be ready in time for the Games; nor will the long-delayed CDG Express train linking the airport with the heart of Paris. 

(With AFP)



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