Smelly bins, pickets plague France on eve of Euro soccer kickoff

Thu Jun 9, 2016 4:44pm EDT
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By Brian Love and Richard Lough

PARIS (Reuters) - As the stench of rotten, uncleared garbage wafts through parts of Paris and pilots prepare to strike, French President Francois Hollande said he would do what was needed to ensure protests do not spoil the Euro 2016 soccer tournament starting on Friday.

"France was chosen to host this big event and will live up to the scale of the task," Hollande said, adding that a smooth running of the world's third biggest sporting event would also showcase a country bidding to host the 2024 Olympics.

"If measures have to be taken tomorrow, they will be taken."

His government chimed in 24 hours ahead of the first match of a month-long soccer fiesta that millions of fans and foreign visitors hope to follow despite an industrial dispute and pickets that have hit public transport and rubbish collection and snarled up strategic roads.

"Some people just don't give a damn that their country is about to host a big event which creates jobs and huge economic benefits," sports minister Thierry Braillard said.

The country has been plagued for weeks by protests over a labor reform bill, compounded by sectoral disputes over issues such as reorganization of work and rest time at the state-owned SNCF railways.

The government message appeared to fall on deaf ears. The hardline CGT union said it would extend a rubbish collection strike in the capital until June 14, and Air France pilots confirmed a four-day walkout over pay.

In a sign that the standoff may be edging towards a compromise, however, CGT leader Philippe Martinez confirmed he had been invited for talks with Labour Minister Myriam El Khomri - but not for another week.   Continued...

Soldiers pass by a pile of rubbish bags on the Grands boulevards in Paris, France, during a strike by garbage collectors and sewer workers of the city of Paris to protest the labour reforms law proposal, June 9, 2016.  REUTERS/Charles Platiau