Saturday, August 18, 2018

The 4th and 14th of July, the World Cup and more ...

July went by so fast - it was a very busy month.  I got up early on the 14 of July (Bastille Day) to watch on my laptop the parade down the Champs-Elysees in Paris from French TV.  I also sat in front of the TV quite a lot to see if the French football team would win the World Cup.  I kept notes and pictures.  I also followed the Tour de France live on TV for three weeks, both from Tennessee and Georgia and I'll have a separate post on it.  The first holiday was July 4th, US Independence Day.  I drove to my husband's assisted living place in the afternoon then in the evening I watched the Nashville fireworks on television.  A crowd of 250,000 was downtown Nashville to view the 30 minute long fireworks.  (Click on collage to enlarge.)

I did not know that "Music City" as Nashville is called here, hosts one of the country's largest Independence Day party with live music, featuring this year Lady Antebellum, and starting at noon.  The celebrations are not only downtown but each neighboring community celebrates as well.  From my bedroom window upstairs I saw a lovely fireworks display before going to bed.  This 2018 July 4th in Nashville was impressive.  The city tourist office said that Nashville's July 4th "Let Freedom Sing" was its biggest show ever, the largest in the country even before Washington, DC, San Diego, New Orleans and San Francisco that were the runner up cities.  The Grammy Award winning Nashville Symphony performed a medley of songs perfectly choreographed to the fireworks show.  There were more than 60,000 shells, mines and comets launched with ghost shells and water fireworks.  More than 33,500 pounds of explosives and 100 miles of wire were used.  It certainly was spectacular.  (Photo courtesy visitmusic city.)

 On Friday July 13 I was reading French and UK news on the computer to find the best sites to watch the next day the Paris 14th of July parade.  I was very surprised to see the amount of people who had assembled in London that day to protest President Trump's 4-day visit to the UK.  About 50,000 people were expected and 250,000 showed up, on a weekday!  Which is more people assembling in London than people attending the Trump presidential inauguration in Washington, DC.  (The US is larger, so the equivalent would be if 1,500,000 people demonstrated here!)  The previous day, in Brussels, President Trump had said "I think they like me a lot in the U.K."  Wishful thinking as a poll showed 89% of the people in the UK have an unfavorable opinion of this US president and he is deeply unpopular.  A petition signed by 2 millions demanded that Trump should not be honored with a "state" visit.  So, his visit to Windsor (his itinerary avoided London mostly) was a "working" visit.  President Obama and his wife had a formal 3-day royal State Visit in May 2011 with all the pageantry, pomp and an evening banquet with Queen Elizabeth; they stayed overnight at Buckingham Palace.  Mr. Trump and his wife shared a pot of tea with the Queen at Windsor Palace and stayed overnight at the US Ambassador's residence.  (Photos courtesy the Evening Standard.)

The protesters called it a "carnival of resistance" to mock President Trump.  Students, retirees, families, professionals came from many cities to march, even celebrities such as Laura Carmichael who played Lady Edith Crawley in TV's Downton Abbey.  The protesters chanted "No Trump, no KKK, no fascist USA" and jeered while banging on pots and pans to "bring the noise."  The Brits were so angry at this visit that a crowd-funding campaign quickly raised £20,000/US $22,400 to build a 20 ft orange Trump baby balloon, wearing a diaper and holding a cell phone in tiny hands with Twitter on the screen.  The balloon was hoisted over the Houses of Parliament.

President Trump has a deeply controversial reputation in the U.K.  Londoners were upset that the president politicized the deadly London Bridge terror attack in 2017 and had said that British hospitals were "like a war zone ...knives, knives, knives" in addition to all his easily debunked lies (they are not used to them like we are in the US.)  The march organizers said "We're planning a proper British welcome for Trump." "Change for tolerance, justice and equality is no longer jurisdictional but global," "Moral outrage has no affect on Trump because he has no shame, he's immune to it, but he has a tremendously fragile ego so ridicule is an effective form of protest," "So we want to make sure he knows that all of Britain is looking down on him and laughing at him."  Donald Trump did not disappoint, in a televised interview he lashed at Prime Minister May and her handling of Brexit, but later during a press conference he dismissed the interview as "fake news" as he usually does when he does not like the reporting.  I also watched the Queen waiting for him, looking at her watch, but Donald Trump said that it was he who had been waiting for the Queen ... He had also walked in front of the Queen, not caring if she was all right.  I took the following pictures from my laptop screen.  I just could not believe the lack of courtesy shown the 92 years old Queen.  There were more planned protests in many cities and in Scotland.

The US Embassy in London had advised US citizens there to "lay low."  I hear some even carried Canadian newspapers in their pockets so people would not think they came from the US.  All this is embarrassing and humiliating for the US.  It is also quite sad as this country used to be admired by all in former times.  I just wonder what would happen if people in the US were as upset with D. Trump's lies as the Britons are and the same percentage would protest?  Never mind, let's move on.

"Défilé" is the French word for "parade."  On 6 July 1880 a government decree was introduced to establish a military parade as it is still known today.  In 1886, a woman, member of the 131st Infantry Regiment, paraded for the first time.  This year the 14th of July parade down the Champs-Elysees was memorable, as usual.  There were 4290 military personnel, 220 vehicles, 250 horses, 64 airplanes and 30 helicopters.  A new unit called ComCyber marched in the parade.  This command was created last fall to protect the state against increasingly numerous and sophisticated computer attacks against the French infrastructures and the French Armed Forces; 56 members representing the 3,400 ComCyber staff were in the parade.  The theme of the parade was "Brotherhood of Arms in Uniform: Commitment of a Lifetime."  It honored the soldiers who brought relief operations in the French West Indies after hurricanes Irma and Maria.  Security was high with 12,000 police forces during the parade and 110,000 all round France that day.  President Trump was the guest of honor in 2017 and he was awed by the parade.  He wanted his own parade in Washington, DC next November, and top the one in Paris, but it is too expensive and he has decided to return to Paris instead for the Armistice Day parade celebrating the end of World War I on November 11, 2018.  This year the guests of honor were Japan and Singapore, and seven of their soldiers, with their country flag, started the parade.

Singapore is one of the main partners of the French Air Force in Southeast Asia.  In addition, 2018 is the 20th anniversary of the training of Singapore Air Force fighter pilots at the French Cazaux Air Base were 300 Singaporeans live (largest community of Singapore nationals overseas.)  The year 2018 marks also the 160th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Paris and Tokyo.  Honored as well was the French military troop the 1st Spahi Regiment (pictured below at the bottom left of collage) as a tribute to two of their soldiers killed in Mali last February in an anti-terrorist operation.  Wounded soldiers were in the parade headed by their commander, who had also been wounded.  Following tradition, the parade ended with the slow marching Foreign Legion units, wearing their leather aprons - pictured at the bottom right of the collage below. (Photos courtesy Ministere des Armees.)

For some years now, a concert named Concert de Paris, has taken place at the feet of the Eiffel Tower with some of the greatest performers of opera and classical music.  The program this year was long and eclectic.  It included works by Berlioz, Verdi, Mozart, Borodine, Puccini, Rachmaninov, Debussy, Wagner, Haendel, Shostakovich, Offenbach and more.  (I don't think a classical concert like this would happen here, as not many people in the US appreciate this type of music anymore.)  Up to 90,000 came to watch the concert which was followed by fireworks.  The theme for the fireworks this year was "Paris de l'Amour" / Paris of Love.  It was chosen by the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, who said "un peu d'amour dans ce monde de ebrutes." / a little love for this world of ebarbarians.  The fireworks were a colorful pyrotechnic show built around the theme of love.  Paris City Hall had said "The Eiffel Tower will be a gigantic beacon of ephemeral beauty celebrating love, sharing and conviviality."  The show started after La Marseillaise was sung (the French national anthem) in the presence of 500,000 spectators.  Music pieces about love were aired during the show including the Beatles' "All you need is Love."  It ended with the title "Allez les Bleus" or "Let's Go ... Les Bleus" the name of the French national football team.  (Photos courtesy Paris-Match, Le Parisien, City of Paris and Opera on line.)

The next morning, Sunday July 15, 2018, I was alone in Nashville to watch the football finale World Cup game on TV.  (All over the world the sport is called "football" and only in the US and maybe Canada it is called "soccer" to differentiate it from American football.)  My daughter and her family had left to visit in-laws in Atlanta.  However, they stopped in Louisville, Kentucky, to see if "les Bleus" were going to win against Croatia.  The French national football team is nicknamed "les Bleus"  the blues.  In 1919 the French Federation of Football (FFF) declared that the team should wear blue jersey, white short and red socks (the colors of the French flag.)  The team emblem is a coq with the letters FFF.  Since 1909 the coq has been their emblem and it is also the emblem of France.  In antiquity France was called "La Gaule" or Gallia in Latin. Gallus means people from Gaul and is also the word for coq.  France won the world cup in 1998 against Brazil in Paris.  I remember that the French Consul in Atlanta invited the French community there to come and celebrate.  I went, and it was fun!  Below are photos of my grandchildren watching the game outdoors in Louisville and photos of the two defending teams.

The 2018 football World Cup was the 21st and took place in Russia, at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow (first time in Eastern Europe) from June 14 to July 15, 2018.  Initially there were 31 teams from 31 countries plus Russia's team as the host country.  During the games a total of 64 matches were played across 11 cities.  The cost of these games was over $14.2 billion.  The global TV audience for the final match was 1.1 billion and 3.4 billion people (about half the world population) watched some parts of the World Cup this year (in the US it was less than half of the people who had watched the 2014 World Cup because the US failed to qualify and they usually are not keen on watching other countries' games.)  It was the first time Croatia played in the World Cup - it is a tiny country with only 4.2 million people (in comparison the population of Greater Atlanta Georgia is almost 6.8 million.)  The final game was riveting as France defeated Crotia and won the title.  French President Macron was attending and was jumping with excitement.

  It was raining quite hard at the end of the game, but it did not stop the team and the fans' enthusiasm.  President Putin, shielded under an umbrella, congratulated the team.  There were fireworks under the rain in Moscow.  Antoine Griezmann was the star of the French team.  He either scored or set up eight of the 14 French goals in Russia.  When the game was over the team ran to him.  (He is shown top right in the collage above holding the trophy.)  His father's origins are German and his mother;s Portuguese.  His sister Maud is a survivor of the terrorist attack in Paris at the Bataclan Theater on November 15, 2015, which took place as he was playing against Germany at the Stade de France where there were explosions from the same attack.  The goal scorer, Kylian Mbappe Lottin was born in Paris in December 1998, the year the French team won their last World Cup.  He donated all his earnings from the game to charity.  From Paris to Marseille, Lille, Bordeaux, Noumea in Tahiti, to Cayenne in French Guiana, and St Pierre et Miquelon, French islands in North America, everyone was celebrating Les Bleus, even in foreign cities like New York and Moscow.  Parisians and tourists by the thousands sang, danced, honk their cars, waived the French flag, crowds assembled everywhere: in the Metro underground, 100,000 at the feet of the Eiffel Tower, more on the Champs-Elysees, singing "we won! we won!" "We are champions of the world!"  A young man wearing a Griezmann jersey said "Everybody is in the street - it's crazy.  There's no problem, no racism, everyone is happy together, only football does that."  I really wish I had been there. (Photos courtesy Ouest-France, Le Parisien, l'Equipe.)

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