As hundreds of boats float elegantly down the Seine at the opening ceremony of the Paris Olympics this summer, one well-known and loved landmark will be absent. The bouquinistes, antique booksellers who have lined the banks for centuries, will have decamped for the duration of the games. For many Parisians who face the prospect of their city being swamped by almost a million incomers, this is the final nail in the coffin.
Though much of the French population support the Games or are indifferent, Parisians have been quick to complain about the Games’ arrival. Nearly 44 per cent of Parisians thought the Olympics were a ‘bad thing’, according to one survey, while 52 per cent are considering leaving Paris for the duration of the Games. Last summer, as bedbugs rampaged around the city and engineering works disrupted metro lines in the city, it seemed that Paris simply was not ready for a Games it didn’t want.
Even if the Oympics do go off without a hitch, lots of Parisians won’t be there to see it. Many of my friends, faced with the prospect of a huge police presence and blocked roads, plan on fleeing the city. The one upside for them is the prospect of making some extra cash by renting out their homes. Given that Paris is not a large city, measuring some six miles across, accommodation has always been a touchy subject. The Olympics have exacerbated this problem as landlords rush to let their flats. While athletes will be accommodated in and around the Olympic village, the government has announced that thousands of students will be turfed out of their accommodation for the duration of the Games. In return, they have been offered €100 (£88) and two tickets to the games, though it’s unclear where exactly they will be able to stay given the blistering prices of hotels while the Games are on.
There are fears, too, that the accommodation frenzy is creating a property bubble.