It is no longer the “bubble” but nothingness, it is no longer the barrier of distancing but the two-meter-high fence, the rampart of a ruined citadel, a bloody fracture, the death of the little horse who trots every summer, the victory of the Covid-19 over a popular festival which had made a point of defying the pandemic. The 2020 Tour de France gave the suffocating impression of finishing even before starting, this Thursday, in the center of Nice, for a presentation of the teams triply barricaded. Earlier today, the government classified the Alpes-Maritimes in red in the face of the progression of the coronavirus in the department. The organizers had prepared themselves to take the plunge. But at this point?
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The town hall of Nice had foreseen the worst hypothesis before the cancellation of the event and unpacked in the night the hundreds of black screens that it has in March for its carnival parade, in order to delimit the accesses of those who pay to attend to the spectacles of others, who must try to look through small slits. The follower from South America, faithful every year, had never seen a Tour like this: “Already we could not touch! Now we can’t even see. “ He looked for the gap behind a black curtain, to try to see a piece of runner’s flesh, an eye, a nose, a leg. The Tour de France suddenly became a peep-show.
The race, which has survived all cancellations (unlike the Tokyo Olympics, Euro football and others), gave a signal of contempt to the little people who support it. How would offering street theater, even from a distance, promote the transmission of an epidemic? Is the Covid contracted through the eyes? These walls were erected “To make people understand that it will be in camera”, assumed the prefect Bernard Gonzalez during an almost secret press briefing in the afternoon. Paranoia often functions like matryoshkas, so much so that the meeting announcing this double-ended departure itself took place without a journalist. At 6.30 p.m., the mayor, Christian Estrosi, inaugurates an empty and naked presentation ceremony, for the sole benefit of televisions, and “Above all, the fans watching us”. “We know it was a difficult challenge to overcome”, he adds.
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The former motorcycle champion, for whom “The reference is” the Badger “” – he speaks of Bernard Hinault, idol of youth -, expected 50,000 spectators, at least, for the festivities. Then, more than 1,750 people drawn. Finally, the crowd was prohibited from exceeding 1,000 VIPs. Place Masséna was a checkerboard without pawns, arcades without shadow, a geometry of anguish, perspectives hardly trodden by a masked cyclist. A surreal murky dream: a painting by Chirico.
“And will it be better for the start of the race on Saturday?” asks a mother. “Yes”, promises a policeman, who does not know, since we no longer know anything. “Are these barriers to prevent people from gathering?” “There are people in town, but it must be because of the mess in the transport rather than the race.” “Can we still go to the beach?” Banners suspended from lampposts burn an outdated slogan: “It’s the Tour des Niçois”. The ambition of March 2018, when Estrosi obtains the right to spotlight in his city, against 2 million euros, seems more than far away. In a parallel world.
Everything goes by bike in Nice. In rue Jaurès near Place Masséna, a facade comes alive under the CGT flags and another under the banner of Agence Jean-Jaurès, a real estate paradise for charming residences (639,000 euros in the valleys) or two-room apartment in the old town (278,000 euros). The artery continues down Crotti, which places the Federal Veterans Union and another peep-show, the GI Club, as neighbors. Great mixer in front of the Lord, Estrosi proposed to marry Tour de France and commemoration of the attack of July 14, 2016, in a minute of meditation on Tuesday. The victims and Christian Prudhomme, director of the Grande Boucle, gathered in front of the same square of memory. Some citizens were moved. The Tour festival does not redeem everything.
Pierre Carrey special correspondent in Nice. Photo Laurent Carré