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The most intense period is expected just after the closing ceremony on August 11 Image: AFP
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Strike call threatens Paris airports' Olympics preparations

10 Comments
By Maryam EL HAMOUCHI, Tangi QUEMENER

A dispute between aviation workers and management at the French capital's airports threatens to overshadow years of preparations and a 50-million-euro investment for visitors and athletes arriving for the Paris Olympics this month.

Unions at state-controlled ADP group, which runs the main Charles de Gaulle airport and its cross-town rival Orly, announced a one-day stoppage on July 17 to press for bigger Olympics bonuses and staff recruitment.

If it continues, the stand-off with management could impact the Games, with athletes set to start arriving en masse from July 18 and hundreds of thousands of ticket holders flying in ahead of the July 26 opening ceremony.

"The fact that we are forced to call for a strike is because of the obstinate refusal of management and in particular the CEO of the company," unions said in a joint statement on Monday.

Along with train stations, Charles de Gaulle and Orly are set to be the main gateways into France for foreign Olympics fans, as well as athletes and equipment.

The ability of ADP's unions to mobilise workers next week is uncertain, however, with a previous stoppage called on May 19 having little effect on operations.

The country's air traffic controllers, despite winning large pay increases last year, went on strike again on April 25, causing thousands of flight cancellations.

Queues

Charles de Gaulle and Orly will the first glimpse many foreign visitors and athletes have of the French capital when they arrive for the Games.

As a result, ADP has spent 50 million euros ($54 million) upgrading its infrastructure and French authorities are deploying extra resources to make the experience as smooth and safe as possible.

"We know that there are some days that will be really intense and we will maybe have 300,000 travellers in the same day at Charles de Gaulle," Julien Gentile, director of border security forces at Paris's airports, told reporters last week.

That number is well above the daily summer average of 200,000 at the airport and is far beyond the record 250,000 daily fliers reached in the summer of 2019.

For the duration of the Games, 250 border posts will be open -- 100 more than normal -- and they will be staffed almost round-the-clock thanks to 2,000 reinforcements, including from the EU's border force Frontex.

"It's like if your supermarket had all of its tills open from the start of the day to the close," Gentile added.

Automated passport control machines, which can be used by EU travellers, as well as crowd-monitoring technology that alerts managers to the arrival of passengers, are also part of the efforts to avoid bottlenecks.

Oversized luggage

One of the key challenges for ADP over the Olympic period is managing irregular and sharp spikes in demand.

The busiest days are expected to come after the closing ceremony on August 11 when spectators, officials and most of the 10,000 athletes will head home.

This coincides with a big changeover period during the French school summer holidays.

"Athletes and delegations arrive in a fairly dispersed manner and will leave in very concentrated fashion," ADP deputy chief executive Edward Arkwright told reporters in April this year.

Athletes will also arrive and depart with an estimated 47,000 pieces of luggage, many of them large and cumbersome, containing items such as kayaks, bikes or polevaulting poles.

A large, specially designed temporary oversized baggage terminal has been built at Charles de Gaulle, measuring 8,000 m2 (86,000 sq. ft), with a smaller version constructed at Orly.

'France's image'

As well the strike threats, the unusual baggage, and the spikes in demand, the city's airports will also have to contend with the arrival of thousands of VIPs, journalists and officials from the International Olympic Committee.

The opening ceremony -- to be proceeded by a summit hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron -- will draw more than 100 heads of state and government, all of whom require protocol services and parking space for their jets.

A vast no-fly zone around Paris, with a radius of 150 kilometres (93 miles), will be established during the opening ceremony, grounding all civilian flights.

Once out of the terminals, regular travellers will find multi-lingual "welcome teams" offering advice on travel and buying tickets at the train stations.

"There's a huge amount of work that's been done," the head of the greater Paris region, Valerie Pecresse, said at the end of June when unveiling the transport and security .

In the metro and train stations at the airports, police are set to step up patrols against pickpockets and chain snatchers.

"France's image is in the balance because this is the first step for a passenger as they arrive in the country," deputy head of border forces at Charles de Gaulle, Regis Bailleul, explained.

© 2024 AFP

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.


10 Comments
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The new left wing government will have its work cut out going forward, this will probably be not the only Strike that they’ll face.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Re route the incoming tourists through to Barcelona ....they love tourists.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

This was always a risk with Presidents taking unnecessary political risks, calling parliamentary elections so close to such a sporting global event.

A media TV global platforms for political activism, to stage any number of strikes/demonstrations

This could be just the tip of the iceberg to what awaits the Paris organizers worst nightmare.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Strike, that just so France!

0 ( +4 / -4 )

This was always a risk with Presidents taking unnecessary political risks, calling parliamentary elections so close to such a sporting global event.

What makes you think the election had any influence on this strike action?

There were airport strikes in April and May, before Macron called the election. There were strikes at CDG last year and the year before that.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Bob Fosse

Withdrawal of labour in France has always been a genuine means of demonstration/protest.

I sense there is genuine anger, a fission in French society, my friends in Lyon, although I don’t believe they would for a moment disrupt the Paris Olympic games, are furious.

I suggest with a Macron government that took the French people for granted.

This “Election” could have sparked much more than just “influencing the need for strike action”.

But a sea change to/of how the French people view the political establishment, could render the country political system unmanageable.

These Olympic Game could become a focal point to bring national political anger to a point.

It would be foolish to believe otherwise. These Paris Olympics, in front of a Global audience, is the once in a lifetime platform to harshly humiliate bring down Macron and his Government.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Bob Fosse

Withdrawal of labour in France has always been a genuine means of demonstration/protest.

My point exactly.

Your claim that the election influenced them is incorrect. They want a pay rise.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I hope so too Bob, its the timing, the media that could ultimately provide a stage, an opportunity to bring about protest, pay demands can be just a means to and end. a start, a prelude to bring about years of angst, of perceived inequality.

These Paris Olympic Games are a sore thumb, that could ignite a fuse of angry indignation, ticket that only the most elite in society can afford, a point not lost on NPF so quick to unite around a common platform that contains deep political rifts.

Such drama and vitriol could fester to produce violent protest as the NPF stokes belligerence.

The French economy is in a state of flux as deficits rose to 5.5% of GDP in 2023, dues to tax revenues on the decline growth sluggish, although inflation is decreasing.

However, this election has brought political instability as never before, a hung parliament of extreme disaffection without any recourse to a "parliament", national assembly willing to compromise. .

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Certainly a pay rise, lower taxes , social justice, Bob

However politicians crave much more, a platform to cynically take advantage of disunity, of political chaos from a noticeable imbalance of an inequitable division of resources, of opportunities,

The tendency for the most privileged in society to continue to have the entitlement such  franchise/monopoly demands.

This "election" has highlighted such harsh inequalities.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

The French love a bit of drama.

I remember when farmers on tractors basically shut down central Paris.

That was an old EEC dispute, about prices for farm goods and produce.

Years ago.

I cant see any "tension " underneath this dispute other than what was said.

There is a bargaining power at present and unions are using it.

The Olympics are probably past their use by date, like the old farmers on the tractors.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

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