France’s Bastille Day parade takes place in shadow of covid pandemic

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Bastille Day rehearsal
Soldiers driving a jeep on the Champs-Élysées avenue during a rehearsal last week for today's Bastille Day parade in Paris. Image: Screenshot France24

Asia Pacific Report newsdesk

The traditional parade on France‘s national day returns today after a one-year hiatus due to the covid-19 pandemic, reports France 24.

European special forces involved in anti-jihadist operations in Africa’s Sahel region will get prime position in the Bastille Day celebrations in a sign of President Emmanuel Macron’s military priorities.

Around 80 French and European special forces drawn from the multinational Takuba force in the Sahel will lead the procession, a choice intended to send a diplomatic message from Paris, reports the newswire.

Macron, who will preside over the ceremony, is banking on often reluctant European partners to step up their commitments to Takuba. He announced plans for a drawdown of French troops in the Sahel region last month.

Paris wants Takuba — which numbers only 600 troops currently, half of them French — to take over more responsibilities from the 5100 soldiers in France’s Barkhane operation, who have been battling Islamist groups in West Africa alongside local soldiers for eight years.

The parade in Paris will be a scaled-down version of the usual event, with only 10,000 people in the stands instead of 25,000.

A forecast of heavy rains might also disrupt the traditional fly-overs and military pageantry. The weather might also dampen firework shows around the country, another popular feature of Bastille Day, which marks the storming of the Bastille prison, a major event in the 1789 French Revolution.

Riviera terror attack anniversary
Alongside the nationwide festivities, the southern Riviera town of Nice will also be marking the fifth anniversary of a terror attack on 14 July 2016 that saw a man kill 86 people after driving a truck through a crowd of people watching Bastille Day fireworks.

Nice terror attack shrine
The makeshift shrine honouring the victims of the 2016 Bastille Day terror attack on the Promenade Des Anglais in Nice on the French Riviera. Image: David Robie/APR

Prime Minister Jean Castex will visit the city for a ceremony at the site of a memorial for the victims, where 86 doves are set to be released as a sign of peace.

Nice authorities have organised a concert for later in the evening.

At 10:34pm, the time the truck rampage began, 86 beams of light will illuminate the Mediterranean waterfront to honour the dead.

Dozens of nationalities were among the victims that day on the Promenade des Anglais.

The assailant, who is believed to have been spurred on by jihadist propaganda, was shot dead by police after a two-kilometre rampage down the seaside promenade.

NZ Bastille week celebrations
In Aotearoa New Zealand, the French New Zealand Chamber of Commerce (FNZCCI) called on the 10,000 strong Kiwi-French community to gather and celebrate Bastille Week in New Zealand “like nowhere else in the world”.

The organisation’s has 3000 employees across New Zealand.

The French New Zealand Chamber of Commerce (FNZCCI) has called on the 10,000 strong Kiwi-French community to gather and celebrate Bastille Week in New Zealand like nowhere else in the world.

The organisation’s members has 3000 employees across New Zealand.

They planned regional events, including NZ’s French Business Awards to mark the national day by showcasing the strength, resiliency, and innovation of the French-Kiwi relationship.

“Bastille week will celebrate the crème de la crème of what France has to offer from Monday, July 12, until Sunday, July 18,” said chamber president Thibault Beaujot.

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