France celebrates Bastille Day
Military jets trailing exhaust in the red, white and blue of the French flag opened François Hollande’s first Bastille Day parade as president today, and parachutists gliding in on chutes in the same patriotic colours ended it by landing on Paris’s famed Champs-Élysées in front of the new French leader.
Under an overcast sky, the pomp celebrating the 1789 beginnings of the French revolution began with bagpipes, dressage and several renditions of the
Marseillaise national anthem. Booming jets then flew past in formation before a stream of military units and tanks began rolling down the Champs-Élysées.
Fierce gusts of wind knocked one of the parachutists off his mark at the parade’s finale, sending him about a half-mile away from his target to the Place de la Concorde.
Mr Hollande swung by after the parade to check in on the wayward jumper as he recovered by a fountain, and he told the French leader he had sprained his knee but was otherwise fine.
The sun struggled to shine through the clouds, but the weather was a vast improvement on Hollande’s last trip down the avenue: Pouring rain soaked his suit and clouded his glasses as he waved from his open-top car on the day of his inauguration.
A family feud involving Mr Hollande’s current partner, his former partner, his son and an apparently vindictive tweet has also clouded the day. First lady Valerie Trierweiler watched the parade from the first row - but she and other companions of dignitaries sat separate from their partners, as in years past.
The country was waiting for Hollande’s response to the latest episode in an interview later in the day. He is also expected to talk about the major domestic and international challenges facing France, which is struggling to return to economic growth as many of its neighbours in Europe slip into recession.
Bastille Day marks the July 14, 1789, storming of the Bastille prison by angry Paris crowds that helped spark the French Revolution.