Champs Elysees, Paris's emblematic avenue
Published : Apr 21, 2017 - 21:52
Updated : Apr 21, 2017 - 21:52
The Champs Elysees, scene of the fatal shooting of a police officer Thursday night, is the beating historic heart of Paris, its elegance and prestige earning it the sobriquet of "the most beautiful avenue in the world".
The location of Thursday's attack claimed by the Islamic State group just ahead of Sunday's presidential election is all the more shocking as the two-kilometre (1.2-mile) avenue is a magnet for millions of Parisians and tourists alike.
Tens of thousands of people daily throng the tree-lined artery that is home to luxury stores and chain stores, cafes, cinemas and high-end offices.
Millions of tourists stroll up and down it each year, soaking in the unique atmosphere of the City of Light.
A tourist draw as famed as the Eiffel Tower just across the River Seine, the avenue, stretching from the Arc de Triomphe down to Concorde Square, was first laid out in 1670.
After Napoleon I elected to have the Arc de Triomphe built at the avenue's apex to celebrate his military successes, Baron Haussmann, architect of the transformation of Paris under Napoleon III, effected a stylish revamp.
Today, the boulevard draws in the crowds, from the moneyed aristocrat to the humble visitor.
Adolf Hitler chose it for a triumphant stroll on his lightning visit to Nazi-conquered Paris in June 1940.
Over the decades, people have gathered there to mark momentous moments in French history.
Hundreds of thousands congregated along the avenue to celebrate France's
1998 World Cup success on home soil.
July 14, Bastille Day, sees an annual repeat albeit on a smaller scale as Paris hosts a traditional military parade. The Champs Elysees is additionally the finish line for the world's toughest cycling race, the Tour de France.
The Christmas market held on the avenue attracts millions while hundreds of thousands more gather there to see in the New Year.
The east-to-west axis has witnessed key moments in French history since Louis XIV's city planner Jean-Baptiste Colbert first linked the Louvre to the Tuileries Garden in the mid-17th century.
During the French Revolution in 1789 an angry mob set off from the avenue to march on Versailles, Louis XVI's opulent retreat. Four years later he would be guillotined at the Place de la Revolution, which would be renamed Concorde after the July Revolution of 1830.
It was also the site chosen by General Charles de Gaulle to celebrate the August 25, 1944, liberation of Paris from the Germans.
Thursday was not the first time violence has been visited on the avenue.
In 1986, it witnessed two attacks -- the first, on February 3, seeing one death and eight injured at the Claridge shopping arcade.
A second attack on March 20 at the Point Show arcade killed two and injured 29. Both attacks were linked to Middle East terrorism.
On Bastille Day in 2002, president Jacques Chirac survived an assassination attempt by a rightwing extremist who fired off one shot from a rifle hidden in a guitar case before bystanders wrestled him to the ground. (AFP)
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