One of France's privileged cities - Lyon, at the Crossroad of Europe

The Opera House and Town Hall.
PICTURES: Press Sports

BY ANTOINE VIERNE
French World Cup
Organising Committee.

Lyon, is perhaps the greatest crossroads in the world. But the home town of ex-international Bernard Lacombe has a lot more to offer.

Few cities in Europe can look back on as rich a past as Lyon. Capital of the Gauls in Roman times (then called Lugdunum), the town has always been one of the most important crossroads for traffic between north and south.

      Thanks to its strategic geographical location, it has been across the centuries a focal point for much of the trade flow between the northern countries and those of the Mediterranean basin. No wonder that it prospered. And its importance has not diminished at all; today it is second only to Paris among French cities and ranks among the major centres in western Europe. The current mayor, M. Raymond Barre, a former French Prime Minister, presides over a city population of 415,000, or 1,262,000 if the whole agglomeration is included.

Trading centre

The city's early history as a trading centre led to the development of some traditional industries, of which textiles and silk are the best known. The town's silk merchants were among the elite of the commercial world for many centuries.

      But Lyon has never been content to rely on this industry alone and has developed in other areas, such as chemicals and chemical derivatives, pharmaceuticals, electrical equipment, automobiles, public works, scientific and medical research and service industries. Most recently the city has added its "Technopoles", the best known of which is certainly La Part-Dieu.

THE GERLAND STADIUM

The Gerland Stadium was designed by the architect Tony Garnier and built in 1920. It is listed as one of France's historic monuments. Naturally there have been changes over the years; the cycle track and the running track have disappeared to make way for two semi-circular bends and two main stands. For 1998, stands have been constructed on the two bends and the Jean-Jaures stand has been completely restructured. Stadium capacity for 1998 will remain at its present level of 44,000, but it will be all seating.

      The work included refurbishing the changing rooms, creating a level of spectator boxes, plus installing the new seats. Work was also done on the lighting with the installation of permanent generator groups, improving press facilities and the sound system, plus setting up a video surveillance system. The total cost of this restructuring was estimated to be in the region of 195 million French francs.

Gastronomy

In addition, the wealth and prime location of Lyon have enabled it to become one of the major European centres for exhibitions and trade fairs. Whether by the motorway links to Paris, Marseille, Milan or Geneva, or the high speed train TGV (only 2 hours from Paris) or by air (Lyon has 2 airports at Satolas and Bron), the visitor is well served for access routes.

      The city's wealth and the French love of good food have combined to make Lyon a gastronomic centre too. In fact it is considered the capital of French gastronomy. No other region has come as close to perfecting table arts as has Lyon - whether it is the haute cuisine at the summit of French gastronomy or a modest "bouchon" (restaurant), the guest is treated to a meal of exceptional quality.

      In terms of entertainment, on the cultural and sporting side, Lyon also has a lot to offer. For music lovers, the OpĂ©ra de Lyon, which is one of the most prestigious in Europe, is undoubtedly the jewel in the crown, while for sports fans there is the Stade de Gerland (see below). In addition there are a number of splendid museums as well as the Palais des Sports, to mention just some of the attractions that make Lyon a well-rounded city.

Bernard Lacombe, one of Lyon's most famous sons.

      So it is easy to see why Lyon is among the privileged cities of France; its historical importance, its cultural inheritance, its thriving economic, industrial and commercial life, its gastronomic excellence, these all make it a worth a visit .

Two matches in June

      The city had the honour of staging two of the six matches for the French pre-World Cup tournament between 3 and 11 June 1997. This was held in four of the cities that hosted World Cup matches for France 98 (in addition to Lyon, these will be Paris, Nantes and Montpellier) and the teams playing were a true attraction, with France, reigning world champions Brazil, plus England and Italy providing some entertaining encounters.

For more information on the Lyon Football Club, visit the official site of the French Football League


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