The capital the whole world loves - Paris: the City of Light

Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Paris is at the very heart of the World Cup in France. Take a look at the French capital that has captured the hearts of generations of visitors.

is in the service of the French World Cup Organising Committee.

The great Mistinguett sang of Paris as the queen of the world in revues during the Belle Époque, and for sure the city has occupied a special place in the hearts of travellers from all corners of the globe who have once visited the French capital. For many, it feels like a second home, a place with magic in the air and where the imagination is stimulated with every view. The area has been populated since way back in history; the town grew up around an island in the river (the present Ile de la Cité), with a Gallic tribe known as the Parisii occupying the site about two centuries B.C. and giving the town its name. From the Middle Ages onwards it was the capital of France and the home of the monarchy, with the momentous events of the French Revolution in 1789 stamping an indelible mark on French history and reverberating round the world.

       Paris is full of reminders of its magnificent history, many of them ranking still among the world's greatest tourist attractions: Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Sacré Coeur - to mention only a few that draw millions of visitors each year. In addition there are the artistic and cultural attractions which make the city vibrate around its monuments and its museums; it is as much a contemporary cultural centre as a classical one.

Arc de Triomphe Great scenes of Paris:
the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame (top), and the Arc de Triomphe (above)

       But Paris is also a dynamic modern city; underneath the beauty that justifies its being called the "City of Light" it is a major political, financial and economic centre, where decisions of global significance are made day by day. And while all this is taking place in the centre, out in the suburban areas, major industries of a wide variety go about their daily business too. And one of those suburbs is Saint Denis, described in another feature in this section, where the new stadium for the World Cup 98 is under completion. But this is just one of a number of important projects that will give parts of Paris a new look as it enters the third millennium; others are the Grande Bibliotheque, Bercy, the new Montparnasse and the Seine Rive Gauche.

       To mark the occasion of the World Cup FIFA - FRANCE 98 in a truly special way, Paris will organise a "Football Festival" on 9 June 1998, the evening before the opening match for the 16th World Cup. The opening ceremony will be a huge celebration, and the heart of Paris and its people will be linked to the rest of the world. It will obviously be a great occasion for football fans, but it is intended as a party for everybody else too, with the focus being on the three fundamental ideas the organisation committee has chosen as its themes: universality, emotion and sharing.

For more information on Paris St-Germain, visit the official site of the French Football League

The "Parc des Princes" Stadium

Parc des Princes A stadium on this traditional site dates back a long way, as its history of renovation and reconstruction testifies. The 1920s saw a renovation of the existing stadium and 1972 brought complete reconstruction, and the name has a special place in the hearts of French sports lovers. It is the home of the French football and rugby teams, as well as being used for a variety of other spectacular events, such as concerts, motocross, show jumping etc.

When the World Cup 1998 opens, major improvements will have been made. Firstly, all the seating will be up to modern levels of comfort, and the presidential box and press zones will also have been updated. The changing rooms will be right up to the moment and the technical equipment installed round the ground (lighting, billboards, security) will meet World Cup norms. There will also be a special facility for the handicapped offering 44 places.

The work was completed by March 1998, making this traditional venue a worthy showplace for six of the 64 matches, including the play-off for third place.