It is Sunday June 5th and I am snuggled under a blanket on my couch in front of the Roland Garros final. In France, the rain continues to dribble away for the fifth continuous week coupled with unwelcoming summer temps in the low 50’s. Don’t worry though…with this humidity it feels like the high 50’s—I might just shed this blanket off after all and turn off the heat.
But as Djokovic and Murray meet up in just a few moments in the French Open final, something doesn’t feel right this year. Roland Garros, an event that has always been associated with a clay-baked furnace and a kick-off to summer is seemingly overshadowed by bigger stories this year in France. An Italian newspaper very pertinently quoted this morning, “Despite all the rain, Paris is still on fire.” As a resident in France, I can personally attest to this tension, a tension that is about as thick as the humidity that came with this last month of shit weather.
It feels like a tipping point is coming soon…and boy do the French know when to choose it. With the last several weeks of heavy rain also came a downpour of union strikes and political strife among the two left parties of the government. Quoi? Yes. The Socialists are fighting with the Communists. The Socialist government has attempted to push through a new labor law to change hiring and firing practices in aims to increase job creation. Well that didn’t bode well with the unions, and since two weeks they’ve been sitting on the lines. They have blocked gas deliveries, bottle-necked train connections, and forced airlines to cancel flights.
Imagine the timing. Roland Garros might be a big event, but consider that in five days France will be hosting the European Championship Football Cup. France was awarded the privilege of hosting this massive tournament in 2010, and since has revamped dozens of stadiums with companies private and public investing over 1.7 billion Euros and hiring over 26,000 employees for the works.
The Euro Cup is estimated to bring 1.2 billion Euros of revenue to France in just one month. Those trains, planes, and gas stations better be operational when hundreds of thousands of fans show up next week. Something has to give….and quick.
Paris is under water right now and so is the French economy. Even with a weak Euro currency exports are down. Unemployment is now around 10.1% and this is now parallel with the Euro zone rates.
The biggest rainbow in France however is that we are entering into the tourist season. Paris alone receives about 30 million tourists per year and is the number one tourist destination in the world. However, with the recent terrorist attacks, a flooded Seine, and paralyzing strikes it could be a difficult summer.
So the match is starting now, and I don’t even know why I wrote all this. Things feel heavy here in France this summer and I wanted to communicate that. Threats of more attacks...poor job climate...and a nasty political war make me uneasy.
One French man told me that the French need their backs against the wall in order to change. Well it seems like everyone is pushing hard against that wall, and France has about five days to figure it out. I think they will. And they will be waiting for you with smiling faces in their restaurants, gas stations, train stations, and stadiums…with their hands out and registers open…because they need it and they need you.
Oh...if you want French wine glasses...my stock of Helicium Glass is dry and we are not on strike. 20% off through June 10th--enter "EUROCUP" at check-out.