Tourists rejoice! Paris may dig under Eiffel Tower

Fri Jun 15, 2012 11:27am EDT
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By Alexandria Sage

PARIS (Reuters) - The hours-long wait endured by hordes of tourists visiting the Eiffel Tower each year could become less painful if Paris presses forward with plans to move ticket counters and queuing underground, beneath the monument's giant feet.

On Tuesday, the city council will issue a call for architects to submit bids, which it will assess before launching a project to develop the area underneath the tower to relieve crowding and add sorely needed services.

The idea of digging underneath the 324-meter-high pride of Paris has been floating around for decades. But with around 7 million visitors flocking to the site each year, the pressure is on to make visiting the tower built by Gustave Eiffel in 1889 a more welcoming experience.

Since the area directly under the tower, which was built to celebrate modern French engineering, must remain empty and new construction is forbidden on the scenic Champ de Mars lawn that stretches out behind it, the only way is down.

Jean-Bernard Bros, president of the group that manages the tower, SETE, said it was imperative to improve the visitor experience at Paris' best-known tourist site.

"Because we need extra facilities to better welcome our visitors, the only way is to dig," Bros told Reuters.

While crowds of tourists will continue to swarm the site, queuing could be better organized in a subterranean space, sheltered from the elements, he added.

"It's a question of comfort, and to improve the reception for visitors," he said. "It's not nice to welcome visitors in the rain, and when it's really hot it's the same thing."   Continued...

Supporters wave flags as they wait for France's President and UMP party candidate for his re-election in the 2012 French presidential elections, Nicolas Sarkozy, to deliver his speech at Trocadero square during a campaign rally in front the Eiffel Tower in Paris May 1, 2012. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes