Paris scales back New Year celebrations after November attacks
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Authorities in Paris have cancelled the New Year’s fireworks display on the Champs-Elysées, opting instead for a video show, as the French capital prepares to mark the event in an “atmosphere of sobriety” following the November 13 attacks.
Security has been tightened across Paris with around 11,000 soldiers, police and emergency workers -- 2,000 more than last year -- to be deployed during subdued celebrations, according to a statement released by the Paris mayor’s office.
"We have decided to mark the New Year in an atmosphere of sobriety and togetherness," Mayor Anne Hidalgo said on the official city website.
Following a deadly year that began with the January 7 “Charlie Hebdo attacks” and wound down with the November 13 attacks -- which killed 130 people -- city authorities were initially torn over whether to scrap the “Réveillon,” as the French call December 31.
In the end, city officials decided to go ahead with scaled-back celebrations.
Sobriety on the world’s 'most beautiful' avenue
Fireworks are not a traditional part of the celebrations in Paris, but over the past few years, hundreds of thousands have gathered on the world-famous Champs-Elysées thoroughfare to watch a fireworks display.
Instead of a fireworks show, this year’s New Year festivities will feature a sound-and-light show at the Arc de Triomphe, which will start at 11:50pm and will be cut to ten minutes, as opposed to last year’s 20. The main objective is to avoid large crowds gathering for too long. Large screens will transmit the spectacle, and while the Champs-Elysées will be closed to car traffic as usual, circulation will be restored sooner than in previous years.
“Tourists and residents alike will as usual be able to meet on what we know as the most beautiful avenue in the world, but this year, sobriety is here. There won't be a big show, and the fireworks are cancelled," the site said.
The sale and use of fireworks in the Paris region will be banned for the night, police said, as well as takeaway alcoholic drinks and any drinks in glass bottles.
‘Vigilance should not stop the celebrations’
France has been on a heightened security alert since the January 7 attacks and following the November 13 assaults, with the government implementing an unprecedented state of emergency.
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said security has been furthered tightened across the country for the December 31 celebrations. “Everything is being done for France's New Year's celebrations to go well. But we have to stay extremely vigilant. The threats are still there, there are still risks,” said Le Drian. “I think that never before have we had such extensive measures in place to protect the French people, be it from the police, the gendarmerie, and the military who are putting these security measures in place.”
Speaking to reporters days before the year-end celebrations, Le Drian noted that the deployment of security personnel across the country was already bigger than any French deployments abroad.
"It's bigger than in Mali, bigger than in the Central African Republic, bigger than in the Middle East, but it's the same fight, it’s the same enemy. It is at home as well as abroad," he said.
"We have to be very vigilant, but that vigilance should not stop the celebrations."
Tight security from Austria to Russia
Amid increasing Islamic State (IS) group threats across the world, security has been a prime concern for authorities in the Middle East, Asia and Europe.
In Belgium, the traditional fireworks display in Brussels has been cancelled due to security fears.
In Russia, Moscow's Red Square, traditionally a place where people gather to ring in the New Year, will be closed to revellers on December 31 while the Austrian capital of Vienna has also beefed up security ahead of the celebrations.
In Turkey, meanwhile, officials said two suspected IS group militants were planning to stage suicide bombings in the centre of the capital Ankara, which is expected to be packed with revellers on the night of December 31. The two suspects were arrested Tuesday.
Turkey has been on a high security alert since October, when two suicide bombers blew themselves up in a crowd of peace activists in Ankara, killing 103 people in the worst attack in the country's modern history.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)