Riverside booksellers in Paris refuse to clear out for Olympics

The open-air booksellers who line the Seine in Paris are refusing to be moved, despite concerns from French authorities over security for the opening of the Olympic Games on the River Seine.

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The opening ceremony next 26 July will be the first in Olympic history to take place outside a stadium.

More than 100 boats loaded with athletes from across the world will float down the Seine, passing Notre Dame cathedral, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.

Organisers have been asked to limit the number of spectators by the river’s edge to around 500,000 and a major security operation will be required.

Sources told French news agency AFP last Thursday that the 200 bouquinistes, who make up the largest open-air book market in Europe, were up in arms over a letter sent to them this week by the Paris police authority.

The letter said it was “essential” to “remove” the boxes fastened to walls along the river banks in which the sellers stock and display second-hand books.

The police want a perimeter where “access and movement of persons are regulated” to ensure the security of a “place or event exposed to a risk of acts of terrorism”.

‘A symbol of Paris’

Jérôme Callais, head of the Paris Booksellers’ Cultural Association, which represents 88 percent of bouquinistes, said they had “no intention of moving”.

“The official responsible for the Seine explained to us that we would be obstructing the view on the day of the ceremony,” Callais said.

“We’re a major symbol of Paris. We’ve been here for 450 years!” he said.

“To want to erase us from the landscape when the celebration of these Games should be a celebration of Paris seems a bit crazy.”


Jérôme Calais, bouquiniste and president of the association of Parisian outdoor booksellers. © RFI/Pierre Olivier


On Thursday, Paris city hall issued a press release assuring the booksellers of its support and acknowledging that their activity “forms part of the identity of the banks of the Seine”.

It estimated that 570 boxes, or 59 percent of the total, would be taken down.

The city authorities are offering to pay for the removal and reinstallation of the boxes, as well as paying to repair any that are damaged in the process.

They said this would be a “renovation” that would support the booksellers’ application to join Unesco’s intangible cultural heritage list, which they have been campaigning for since 2018.

But Callais said some of the boxes were “too fragile” to be moved, and estimated it would cost 1.5 million euros to renovate all of them.

(with AFP)

The Paris Olympics and Paralympics run from 26 July to 8 September 2024. Riverside booksellers in Paris refuse to clear out for Olympics

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