France’s Bastille Day celebrations, though scaled back, returned Wednesday to the famed Champs-Elysees in Paris, after a one-year absence due to COVID-19.
French officials limited the crowd size to about 10,000, less than half the 25,000 that usually line the famed boulevard to watch the traditional parade. Spectators reportedly had to show special passes proving they had been fully vaccinated, recently recovered from the virus, or had a negative coronavirus test. Heavy rain lowered attendance.
French President Emmanuel Macron led the festivities as about 5,000 participants marched in the parade and French jets flew overhead streaming smoke in the colors of the French flag.
This year’s parade paid tribute to French-led European special forces known as Takuba, which were sent to Africa’s Sahel region. About 80 military troops from Sweden, Estonia, Italy, Belgium, Portugal and Holland opened the military parade.
Last year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the parade was canceled and replaced by a ceremony honoring front-line health care workers. It was the first time since World War II the parade had been canceled.
The holiday commemorates the storming the of the Bastille, a fortress used to hold political prisoners in Paris on July 14, 1789, sparking the beginning of the French revolution.