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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 July, 2004, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
'Paris Beach' opens along Seine
By Caroline Wyatt
BBC Paris correspondent

The Paris Beach along the river Seine
Last-minute preparations continued till early morning
With palm trees in the breeze above two miles of golden sand, this could be Palm Beach or Palma de Mallorca.

But no - it's central Paris, and the Paris Plage project, the manmade beach along the river Seine, now opening for the third year running.

Last-minute preparations went on all night, with workmen smoothing out the 2,000 tons of fine sand now spread on what's usually a busy motorway.

Deck chairs, sun-loungers and colourful parasols have sprung up everywhere.

And by lunchtime, it was impossible to find a free chair.

Biggest novelty

Cyclists and roller-bladers took the chance to coast along the riverside, as families brought picnics to the beach.

A swimming instructor watches over children playing in a pool at the Paris Beach installation along the Seine river

The biggest novelty this year, though, is a 28-metre swimming pool, installed after complaints last year that there was nowhere to cool off properly during August's heatwave.

As children splash happily in the water, lifeguard Sedo Koukoui looks on.

"This is great," he says.

"It's perfect for children who can't leave the city on holiday this summer, and it shows what Paris can do. It's fun, and people can come here to swim, have fun and relax."

But the beach doesn't come cheap: this year it cost a total of two million euros (1.3m), most of it paid by commercial sponsors.

'Wilting Londoners'

Not bad, though, for a project which attracted some 3 million people last year in the one summer month the beach was open.

As stressed-out office workers and tourists alike take to the sands of Paris beach, they're unlikely to spare much thought for wilting Londoners.

They could have had something similar along the Thames - Bermondsey Beach - had Southwark council not rejected the idea.

Once again, the French flair put into organising petanque and picnics along with Seine, sea and sand just shows what Paris can do - something that won't go unnoticed in the battle with London for the 2012 Olympic Games.

In pictures: Beach comes to Paris
21 Jul 03 |  In Pictures
Riviera comes to Paris
21 Jul 02 |  Europe

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