Euro 2016: Cordons, strikes, riots & terror threats – is football even a la carte?
First and foremost – you might not get to the tournament at all. Air France pilots are planning to go on a massive strike on Saturday, June 11, the second day the tournament kicks off, and keep hitting the bricks for four days at least, unhappy with an impending pay cut.
An Air France spokesman confirmed the strike earlier on Thursday, but promised, however, that some 70 percent of flights would operate. So maybe you will be lucky? Or perhaps opting to travel by train could be a better idea?
Probably not, seeing as French rail workers are already on a nationwide strike, which has seen trains being canceled across the country since May, 31, including on the RER D line leading to the Paris’ main stadium, Stade de France, and the Gare du Nord station, used for Eurostar trains going between Britain and northern Europe.
If by way of fortune you’ve managed to get to France and transport issues don’t bother you, the stinking smell of rubbish bins might, because… yes, there is another massive strike going on – the garbage collection strike, which is to continue until at least June 14!
So as you can imagine, the smells of French perfume and baguettes are hardly the ones you’ll inhale upon arrival. With workers blockading waste processing centers in Paris, ten of the capital's 20 districts have begun filling up with uncollected rubbish. And it's not only in Paris that bin bags are stacking up on the streets. St. Etienne and Marseille have also had to put up with rubbish piling up on the streets.
Labor reform aftermath
In general, beware of the strikes and protests.
Apart from pilots and rail workers, thousands of employees from a variety of spheres have been protesting all over France for more than two months now, opposing a new labor reform that might make it easier for companies to hire and fire employees.
The protests have resulted in clashes with police and all sorts of violence, so take care when strolling through central Paris, and better avoid Place de la Republique, if you don’t want to get your butt kicked by raging justice-seekers or, worse, get tear-gassed, shoved into a riot police van and have to watch the games on a small screen from the cramped cell. Just don’t.
Chaos continues as people remain on the street of Paris to protest the Labor reform-laws. pic.twitter.com/aOIjxjpTTW— Ruptly Stringer (@RuptlyStringer) May 27, 2016
Queues and cordons
As for the law enforcement force, there will be much of it! Approximately 90,000 police and private guards have been mobilized to watch after Euro 2016 events – and spectators.
This means that you’ll be protected (or rather hoarded?), but also that you’ll be searched and scanned and monitored whenever near or at one of the 110 venue sites, including stadiums, fan zones and team hotels.
You’ll also have to wait for some three hours before entering any stadium, and wait in a long, a very long queue as besides yourself about 2.5 million spectators are expected to attend the 51 Euro-matches. Plus, there will be dual rings of steel for you to pass through at the stadiums, so just breathe slowly and try to keep your cool.
Despite all the security gimmicks, many governments still don’t believe the measures will make the tournament risk-free and have been warning their nationals of ‘potential terrorist threats.’
The US State Department was the first to toll the bell. "Euro Cup stadiums, fan zones, and unaffiliated entertainment venues broadcasting the tournaments in France and across Europe represent potential targets for terrorists," the alert said. The UK joined in the alarm, urging its citizens to be “vigilant at all times.”
The head of the Euro 2016 organizing committee, Jacques Lambert, in his turn swore that organizers had not received intelligence of any specific threats to the 10 host stadiums and fan zones, yet reminded that France remains under a state of emergency following last year’s attacks. So watch out. Seriously. And use the ‘terror alert’ app.
No football watching on the streets
In case you planned on merging the football-watching joys with gastronomic pleasures, we have to burst your bubble. As one of its latest security measures, France has banned cafes and bars from broadcasting games on outdoor terraces. This means that you could still watch the game on a small TV-screen at the bar, but no usual giant outdoor screens are allowed to be installed, apart from those in the official fan zones. That’s being done in order to avoid people from massing in crowds outside bars and restaurants.
“A game shown on a terrace comes with a crowd around the screen,” France's secretary of state for Sports Thierry Braillard told BFMTV channel. “It's better to have a secure site that will allow thousands of people to gather in an organized manner.” Still, don’t be too thrilled by the fan zones – they also have caused many politicians to voice their concerns over being easy targets for massacres.
When in Rome…
And finally, but rather crucially, don’t forget you’re a foreigner in France.
Tourists are always recognizable, and football fans are ever more so, with all the chanting and flag-waving and brightly colored faces. Loud tourists are a common complaint of the French, and although it’s hard to be a quiet football fan, try. And try to say ‘bonjour’ and ‘merci,’ at the very least. Your hosts will appreciate the effort. If you think you can endure all of this, Euro-2016 is waiting for you!