France to 'Beat Clock' to Century's End

This week's Bistro

Lost Vegas Offers Dubious Flattery to Paris

Paris:- Saturday, 5. April 1997:- Obviously the biggest news of the week, is that France has decided that it will exist until the beginning of the next century, which is also, co-incidently, the beginning of the new millenium - the third.

This fairly welcome news greeted Friday's readers of Le Parisien. The headline across pages two and three says: 'Le Compte à Rebours Commerce' - the countdown starts.

Some time ago, in a report about Beaubourg's renovations, I mentioned that the countdown clock that had been there had been taken down. It showed the number of seconds to the end of the century.

A new countdown panel has been affixed to the Tour Eiffel; which merely shows the days left until 31. December 1999. Before you say, stop! booboo! let me point out that Alain Juppé, the current Prime Minister, is taking personal responsibility for France getting to the end of the century a year before the rest of the world.

He has decided that only 'purists' will go for 31. December 2000; but I suggest he is just trying to making up for France's slow start to the finish line, so it is okay with him if it is moved forward. Many other cities have stated their plans for the 'end of' a long time ago.

You can think of this what you will. By purest fluke of chance, the new countdown panel - which is illuminated The 'Newsroom' so that it can be read in daylight - was turned on Saturday or Sunday. Whichever day it was, it said '1,000 Days' and Le Parisien says this is from Sunday - to Friday, 31. December 1999.

Metropole's TV 'newsroom' after a night of serious 'news' coverage.

By the time you read this, if it is on Metropole's publication date of Monday - and if Monday itself is included - there will be only 999 more visiting days to Paris in this century. Although between us, we know there will be 1,364 - which is better for you and better for Paris.

With the extra year on hand, the city should have the time to think up something a bit grander than the 'countdown clock.'

In fact, up until Monday, 15. June - of this year! - you are invited to send your idea of what Paris should do for a fête for the occasion. There is even a 'financial' prize involved, although its incentive value is not mentioned. Do not be put off by the apparent rule that this competition is only open to the French.

Address your idea to: 'Mission Célébration An 2000,' BP 2000, 75231 Paris Cedex 05, France. There is a "toll-free' Azur number to call for additional information, but I think it is only available on local dialup. Write as early as you can, while Mr. Juppé is still Prime Minister.

Bad News for Paris, Good News for Lost Vegas

Mayor Jean Tiberi of Paris recently put on a stiff upper lip while hosting a visit by a group of real-estate boosters from Nevada, who were in Paris to announce plans to turn 10 hectares of Nevada desert into 'Paris Las Vegas.'

This is a brain-child of the Hilton Hotels Corporation, which also intends to erect a 50-floor replica of the Tour Eiffel, which will overlook stunning downtown Las Vegas, as well as other semi-replicas of other parts of Paris, including the Seine and a bridge or two.

I have grave doubts about the seriousness of this worthy and ambitious three-year project because the estimated budget is only $750 million. This is pin-money compared to what Paris spends to run for a year, without including the capital costs of ongoing monumental projects and the opening of new bike lanes.

The Hilton Corporation honestly thinks it is doing Paris a favor, by giving Americans who can not afford to visit the real thing, a decent, clean and polite alternative.

And who knows? If visitors to Las Vegas can win enough to get out of town, they may decide to visit Paris on account of this huge advertisement for it sprawled all over the desert.

If it doesn't look like this is going to happen, I don't see why Mr. Tiberi can't authorize the opening of a few casinos in the city of light, as a tribute to Las Vegas.

The Chimney Gang Gets Cleaned Up

Police think they have laid their handcuffs on the 'brains' of a hot-chimney mob. With the arrest of Paul Grizvivatz, also known as 'Paul des Chiminées,' police believe they have brought an end to a hard-working band of heavy-duty thieves.

They are suspected of having looted no less than 350 Louis XV and Louis XVI-style chimney-mantels made out of marble and other good stone from private manions in the Paris area. The police have also put the cuffs on two fences, one in Saint-Ouen and the other in Mâcon.

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