Issued on • Modified
France hopes for break from political conflict, terror at Euro 2016 final
France was hoping for a respite from the gloom of political conflict, industrial disputes and terror attacks at Sunday's Euro 2016 final at the Stade de France near Paris. With the national team facing Portugal, President François Hollande commented that "sport allows people to come together, politics divides" but warned that "life will return to normal afterwards".
The French people "needed to come together with joy", Hollande told the Journal du Dimanche Sunday paper.
Sport, which unites while politics divides, allows us to go beyond differences of origins and experience, he commented, going on to claim that there is no need today to stress the racial diversity of the French team, as was done for the winning World Cup side in 1998.
"France is mixed, it's a fact," the president said. "No need to preach about it, the country supports them."
Although he may well hope that a feelgood factor might help his chances of being reelected next year, Hollande assured the paper that, while he attends all the French side's matches, "I don't want to use that for political purposes ... that's not good for sport and it's not good for politics".
Keeping up the home wins record
As well as the 1998 World Cup victory, France won the 1984 Euro at home and the Euro 2000 in Rotterdam.
But the 2010 World Cup was less glorious, with internal conflict including a players' strike and an infamous handball by Thierry Henry, leading some commentators to hope that a victory on Sunday will expunge the shame of that year.
If the French do win, however, there will be no victory parade down Paris's Champs Elysées on Monday, as was the day after the 1998 win.
Paris police have forbidden any such move, citing preparations for the 14 July Bastille Day military parade with some barriers already erected.
Thousands of police on streets
Another major concern is security.
Nearly 1,300 police will be on duty at the Stade de France, which was one of the targets in last November's Paris attacks, a further 1,400 in the Paris fanzone and 700 on public transport.
But the heaviest police presence will be on the Champs Elysées, where teargas was fired on rioting fans after France's victory in the semi-final on Thursday.
Some 3,400 police will be on duty on the world-famous avenue on Sunday night.
To read our coverage of the Euro 2016 click here