President Francois Hollande has vowed to take “all necessary measures” to ensure the smooth running of the Euro 2016 football tournament in strike-hit France, as bags of uncollected rubbish piled up in Paris streets.
The run-up to Europe’s four-yearly football extravaganza has been blighted by strikes and street protests over the French government’s controversial labour reforms.
Security concerns also loom large over the event after last year’s jihadist attacks in Paris, and organisers faced their first major challenge late yesterday with a giant concert at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.
As hundreds of thousands of fans began pouring into the capital ahead of the football, a train strike rumbled into its ninth day and bags of household rubbish were piling up on the streets of the French capital — as temperatures rose to 24 degrees Celsius.
Rail workers have threatened fresh disruption today on the lines serving the Stade de France, in northern Paris, where the hosts face Romania in the opening game.
On the eve of the inaugural match, Hollande said the government was prepared to “take all necessary measures” to host and transport spectators, insisting that “public services will be provided”.
“I will be paying close attention tomorrow and if decisions need to be made, they will be made,” Hollande said. “The whole of Europe will be watching,” he added.
Superstar French DJ David Guetta was to kick off the festivities last night with a free performance in the 90,000-capacity fan zone — the first test of the massive security operation to guard the tournament just seven months after coordinated Islamic State attacks in Paris killed 130 people.
Music lovers arriving for the performance were made to walk through two checkpoints before entering the open-air concert.
France has mustered up to 90,000 police and private guards to provide security for the month-long tournament.
Environment Minister Segolene Royal appealed to unions to end their disruption, warning they were endangering the image of France, which is bidding to host the 2024 Olympics.
She told iTele it was “not right for a modern country to continue being permanently disrupted”.
“France’s pride is at stake,” Royal said. “Let’s not harm France’s capacity to organise global events.”
Nearly 3,000 tonnes of waste have gone uncollected in Paris, according to the authorities, with nearly a third of rubbish truck drivers on strike and unions blockading incineration plants, preventing collections.