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Floods, threats and strikes: Another tough week beckons for France

Jessica Hartogs, Special to
A photo taken on June 1, 2016 shows the flooded Seine river and the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
BERTRAND GUAY | AFP | Getty Images

When it rains, it pours. And French president Francois Hollande could well be reaching for the umbrella as his government tackles floods, continuous strikes and now terrorist threats at the start of one of the most important sports tournaments of the year.

Speaking to French radio France Inter on Sunday, Hollande said that threats against the 2016 European Championship soccer tournament did indeed "exist" and that "we need to take all the necessary precautions for this Euro 2016 to be a success."

Seven months after terrorist attacks that left 130 people dead in Paris - 90,000 security personnel have been deployed for Euro 2016, where 24 countries will compete to be crowned the best in Europe. The tournament, played across France, opens Friday at the Stade de France - the site of the first of the November 13 attacks where three suicide bombers detonated their vests as people entered the stadium.

Hollande said there would be specially designed "fan zones" where fans could watch the matches on giant screens, but that fans and spectators alike would have to be patient with the security measures in place when entering and leaving such areas, as well as the stadiums.

Meanwhile, police in Ukraine claimed to have foiled a terrorist attack designed to target Euro 2016, after a Frenchman was arrested on the Ukrainian-Polish border in late May with weapons and plans to attack 15 different locations, including bridges and railway stations, according to the Associated Press.

A photo taken on June 1, 2016 shows the flooded Seine river and the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Thousands evacuated as France declares emergency over floods
French demonstrators plan to disrupt Euro 2016 soccer tournament

In total, around 8 million people are expected to attend Euro 2016, generating an estimated 1.24 billion euros ($1.4 billion)) of business for France, reported U.K. newspaper The Guardian.

As well as security threats – France also faced unprecedented flooding last week that claimed the lives of at least four people. The River Seine rose to highs not seen in more than 30 years – forcing people from their homes and even staff at the Louvre Museum, as well as at the Musee d'Orsay, to evacuate priceless works of art for fear of damage.

In total, insurers have estimated damages of at least 600 million euros ($681 million) from the floods in France, said the AFP.

Finally, France in the past few months has been paralyzed on-and-off by strikes from union workers protesting Hollande's labor law reforms.

Air France pilots are the latest to announce a four-day strike, starting on Saturday - a day after Euro 2016 kicks off - which would be a real blow to soccer fans traveling across the country to watch the games.

However, support is waning for the unions. French pollster BVA said that in its latest survey – 54 percent of French were against the strikes. The poll also showed that 29 percent wanted the government to maintain the bill, which aims to cut France's infamous 35-hour week, as well as making hiring and firing easier, in an attempt to get the stubbornly high unemployment rate down. The same percentage want the bill withdrawn, while 41 percent want a negotiated solution, reported Reuters.

And it's not just how the next few weeks unfolds which matter for France - Paris is also bidding to host the 2024 Olympics, and the success of this month's events will certainly play into that decision.

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