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Paris angers critics with plans to restrict Olympic Games traffic but says residents shouldn’t flee

PARIS (AP) — Stay, enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime show.

That was the message from organizers of the Paris Olympics on Wednesday as they sought to reassure the French capital’s residents that security measures and traffic restrictions won’t make their lives nightmarish during the July 26-Aug. 11 event and the Paralympic Games that follow.


But critics, including some in the Senate, were displeased by plans to require motorists to apply online for a QR code to access traffic-restricted zones of Paris during the Games. Senators complained that lawmakers had not been consulted. Nathalie Goulet, a senator from Normandy, likened the proposal to ID papers that France’s Nazi occupiers imposed in World War II.

The Senate announced that Paris police chief Laurent Nuñez would appear before senators on Thursday and be asked to explain the security measures around the event.

Nuñez, speaking to journalists, defended the planned QR code as legal and justified. He insisted that traffic restrictions would be kept to the necessary minimum and suggested that he’d been expecting criticism.

“One can always be the little ugly duckling who sulks in the corner. We know we’ll have lots of those,” the police chief said.

The traffic restrictions and other security measures detailed Wednesday by Nuñez in a newspaper interview and a subsequent news conference will be concentrated on Olympic competition routes and venues, some of them installed in the heart of Paris, and won’t be generalized across the capital.

Pedestrians and cyclists won’t need the QR code to get around, but motor vehicles and motorbikes will need it to get past some police checkpoints. Some Metro stations will be closed. But Nuñez said the general aim is to create as little economic impact as possible and for shops, restaurants and museums to remain accessible.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said the security shouldn’t cause Parisians to flee and described the city’s first Olympic Games in a century as a gift for its residents.

“Should people leave Paris? Well no,” she said.

“At a time when the whole world is a bit depressed, with wars and conflicts, we will be the place that hosts the first big fraternal event, thanks to sport, after the COVID (pandemic),” she said.

“We are giving ourselves a collective present.”

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