Piles of trash, spotty transport in France mar Euro 2016 kick-off day

The mayor of Paris promised Friday to clear the trash piling up on city sidewalks, as the president of the European football championship lamented the impact of labour strikes that continued to disrupt the country on kick-off day.

"The party is already a little bit spoiled," Euro 2016 President Jacques Lambert told France Inter radio. "This image of the country is not the one that we wanted to give."

France has seen historic floods, violent demonstrations and strike-induced fuel shortages in the weeks leading up to the championship, and the government remains in a state of emergency in response to two terrorist attacks last year. Much of the recent turmoil is over labour reforms backed by unpopular President Francois Hollande in a bid to jumpstart the flagging economy.

With continued disruptions to local train traffic, as well as a pilot strike at Air France set to begin on Saturday and a strike at waste treatment centres that has caused trash to pile up in Paris and other spots, French officials are scrambling to ensure the millions of fans - including an estimated 1.5 million foreign visitors - can continue to focus on football.

"I do not want the city to be in this state," Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said Friday on broadcaster BFM-TV. "This morning, we have 30 extra [trash] trucks in Paris. All the garbage will be collected; today, it is in the process of being collected; it will take a few days to return to normal."

With the weather warming up in the French capital, the waste balanced precariously on overflow piles on tops of bins had started to emit a strong odour in many of the 10 Parisian neighbourhoods that had been affected by the strikes. The other neighbourhoods were serviced by companies that continued to operate.

On Saturday, nearly 20 per cent of Air France flights were expected to be cancelled on the first day of strikes called by pilots unions after negotations on working conditions and planned restructuring by the airline broke down. The company said it expected to be able to maintain some 90 per cent of long-haul flights.

Around Paris, where the first of 51 championship matches was set to begin on Friday evening, labour strikes continued to disrupt transport on regional lines that served the Stade de France stadium. But France's minister of state for transport, Alain Vidalies, said the transport for fans would be assured.

Vidalies said on radio Europe 1 that the government would take any measures necessary to ensure the 80,000 fans could reach the stadium, adding that one of the regional lines had started in the morning. Shuttle vans were planned by national operator SNCF to make up for disruptions on two other lines.

Hollande has demanded an end to the disruptions and appealed to strikers to take responsibility for their actions.

On Thursday, tens of thousands of fans gathered at a fan zone under the Eiffel Tower in Paris to ring in the month-long football championship. Fans interviewed by dpa said they were not concerned about the turmoil, adding that the ambience was overwhelmingly festive.

Last update: Fri, 10/06/2016 - 19:45
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