Paris booksellers angered over call to remove them for Olympics

© Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Paris booksellers, who have operated from little dark green kiosks on the banks of the Seine for some 150 years, are incensed by plans to remove them for the opening ceremony of the 2024 Olympics.

In a test run on Friday, four of the stands were lifted by a crane three metres above the ground – drawing consternation and anger from a small group of booksellers gathered nearby.

Paris city hall official Pierre Rabadan told a news conference on Saturday that the exercise went off without a hitch.

"Today we are sure we can move – that is to say remove and then put back – boxes in good conditions in a reasonable time," he said.

Paris police chief Laurent Nunez, in a bid to calm outraged booksellers or "bouquinistes", stressed that the stands would "only be removed when strictly necessary, notably for security reasons."

"I am aware of the importance of bouquinistes as an attraction of the capital," he said.

Already struggling to bounce back from shutdowns during the Covid pandemic and a longer-run loss of interest from locals, the booksellers are refusing to miss out on the 16 million tourists expected for the Games.

"It's like a tooth extraction!" Michel Bouetard, general secretary of the Cultural Association of Booksellers of Paris, told AFP.

"All this for a four-hour ceremony! The Olympic Games have achieved what the wars (World Wars I and II) have not been able to do – to make us disappear," he fumed.

The booksellers use the green boxes to house some 300,000 old books and a great number of journals, stamps and trading cards.

They are part of the Paris landscape and a huge tourist attraction.

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