Mon, 23 May 2022

Paris will give the iconic Avenue des Champs-Elysees an eco-makeover ahead of the 2024 Olympic Games by planting trees and increasing pedestrian areas.

The French often call it "the most beautiful avenue in the world", but activists complain that traffic and luxury retail have turned it into a noisy and elitist area shunned by ordinary Parisians.

Speaking on Wednesday, the Mayor of the 8th arrondissement, Jeanne d'Hauteserre, said: "We need to re-enchant the capital's most famous avenue, which has lost a lot of its splendour over the past 30 years."

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said the project would involve a reduction of the space for cars because "that's how we need to envision the city of the future".

The plan is in keeping with other efforts to squeeze cars out of the French capital and make the city more green - a push that has divided residents with critics saying her policies go too far, too fast.

Police hesitation

Following the announcement, the Paris police gave a less than enthusiastic response to Hidalgo's plans, stressing that the Champs-Elysees is a transport route, which falls under the domain of the French state.

In a tweet, the prefect of police said he would "carefully examine" the proposals from the mayor's office.

His team pointed out that their boss had not received the proposals, adding that he "must be involved in the project".

However, supporters have lauded the former presidential candidate Hidalgo's efforts to reduce pollution and increase green areas in the densely populated city, which can become unbearable when frequent summer heatwaves hit.

Around the Arc de Triomphe, which perches atop the Champs-Elysees, the plan is to widen the pedestrian ring surrounding the monument.

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And at the bottom of the 2 kilometre-long avenue next to the Place de la Concorde, the "Re-enchant the Champs-Elysees" plan will see the gardens revamped.

Paris will spend €26 million in the lead up to the 2024 Olympics on the works set to begin within weeks.

The terraces near the top of the avenue favoured by tourists will also be reworked by Belgian designer Ramy Fischler, who will reportedly strive to "preserve the identity and personality" of the area.

Iconic avenue, steeped in history

The Champs-Elysees was first laid out in 1670, but was given a revamp by Baron Haussmann, the architect behind the transformation of Paris under Napoleon III in the mid-19th century.

Over the centuries, the avenue has been the stage for the high and low moments in French history, hosting celebrations and commemorations as well as protests, notably the violent Yellow Vest movement.

It is also used as the route for the Bastille Day military parade, which celebrates the foundation of the French republic and its armed forces on 14 July, as well as the finishing point for the annual Tour de France cycle race.

Originally published on RFI

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