Letter from Paris: January 10, 2024 News Digest

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Letter from Paris: January 10, 2024 News Digest

An arctic blast roared through Paris this week, bringing freezing temperatures and a dusting of snow. (Check out the image below of the Chateau de Versailles.) At the same time, President Emmanuel Macron decided to shake up his government with a change of ministers. Elisabeth Borne stepped down as Prime Minister, replaced by Gabriel Attal, the youngest PM in the history of the Fifth Republic (34 years), and the first who is openly gay.

Paris has named a 50-meter street after David Bowie to celebrate the music icon on what would’ve been his 77th birthday. The commemoration included a concert and exhibit alongside the inauguration of the street located near the Gare d’Austerlitz and Le Monde’s headquarters in the 13th arrondissement. What’s the link with Paris? Besides declaring his love for Iman, his wife, on a bateau-mouche, it was here that he played some of his first international concerts. Paris City Hall notes that he snag in two clubs, Golf Drouot and the Bus Palladium, in the winter of 1966, when he was still called David Jones and sang in different groups.

The Olympics is 200 days away, and the city is touting unique aspects of the Games— never before been seen. The opening ceremony will be outside on the Seine, landmarks such as the Grand Palais and the Eiffel Tower will be incorporated as sporting venues, there will be numerical gender parity (“5,250 men and 5,250 women are set to compete from 26 July-11 August”), and the gourmet cuisine at the Athletes’ Village and venues will showcase sustainable French gastronomy. Another notable point: the new-built Olympics Village in the northern suburb of Saint-Ouen will be converted into social housing after the Games. Oh and expect lots of returning sports stars.

To quote Olympics.com: “The potential comeback of all three of the last artistic gymnastics Olympic all-around champions — Sunisa Lee, Simone Biles and Gabby Douglas — is poised to rival Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and ‘Magic’ Johnson’s 1992 “Dream Team” title as the trio could rock the history of their sport. If all three make Team USA’s 2024 Olympic team, they will go head-to-head to win the ultimate individual title: the all-around gold.”

Speaking of the Olympics, Snoop Dogg has joined NBC’s team to report on the Summer Games.


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Local residents outraged by the plan to bulldoze one of Marie Curie’s historic labs can breathe easy (for the time being). Located on rue d’Ulm in the 5th arrondissement, the Pavillon des Sources was scheduled for demolition because of a development project by the Curie Institute, which owns it. As reported by Kim Willsher in The Guardian, “France’s culture ministry has stepped in at the last minute to suspend the demolition of a symbol of France’s scientific medical heritage, but campaigners say the fight goes on… The eleventh-hour intervention came after a petition and appeals to the country’s president, Emmanuel Macron, and government ministers.”

Marie and her husband Pierre won the Nobel Prize for discovering polonium and radium. (After he was killed by a horse-drawn cart while crossing the rue Dauphine, Marie won her second Nobel Prize — for chemistry — five years later. The Pavillon des Sources is not classified a historic monument, which would protect it.

Marie Curie. (C) Henri Manuel, Public Domain

The Paris population (2,133,111 as of January 2021) is shrinking, according to a recent report by INSEE, France’s national statistics agency. The trend has continued post-pandemic, with the surrounding Île-de-France region gaining more residents, as more people leave Paris because of expensive rents and the rise in the cost of living. As reported by RFI, “The decline remained steady during Covid, with 12,795 Parisians moving away over the first year of the pandemic. Central arrondissements were most affected by the departures, with losses of 0.6 percent in the first arrondissement and 1.1 percent in the third. However, the second and fourth arrondissements recorded increases of 0.3 percent and 0.7 percent respectively.”

The départements of l’Île-de-France. Wikipedia commons/ Public domain

Strikes took place at major French monuments over the holiday period, including Mont Saint Michel and the Eiffel Tower. As reported by France 24, a unionist at the Paris landmark “warned that the cost of “major maintenance, renovation and conservation work” is being “underestimated” at the 125-year-old iron structure.” The strike lasted for one day: December 27. To quote: “strikers among the Eiffel Tower’s 360-strong workforce said they had walked out for one day on December 27 to protest against “unrealistic management” with “over-ambitious, impossible-to-achieve” business goals. ‘The Eiffel Tower is an old lady. It’s 130 years old. Some of the lifts date back to 1899. There’s a lot of work (to be done),’ the workers said. They added that managers’ projections of 7.4 million visitors per year were unrealistic — the tower hosted 5.9 million in 2022 — leaving a funding gap that workers believe has management firm SETE ‘heading for disaster’. But SETE boss Jean-Francois Martins said the Eiffel Tower was ‘in good economic shape’, even after the Covid-19 pandemic and inflation hit renovation costs.”

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France. Credit: Chris Karidis, Unsplash

Lead photo credit : Photo by Jean-Baptiste D. on Unsplash

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  • Bonnie Sullivan
    2024-02-02 03:52:35
    Bonnie Sullivan
    Paris, my most favorite place in the world! So many people will agree with me, but few can say they were there on December 31st 1999 ! What a fabulous week it was! Le Opera on the 31st before the magnificent display of fireworks at the Eiffel Tower! I had been lucky enough to be in Paris in days before the millenium and took photos of them on Eiffel Tower 300+ days until May 1999 !!! I am now 83 years, and did enjoy a cruise in April 2023 Paris to Paris on the Seine. However, now I am anxious to extend my "bucket list" and return !!!!! Doubtful unfortunately !