Parc Des Princes – Prized Parking Permits
The statistics noted the date of 12 September 2007 as the 75th and probably last time the French national team would be playing an international match at the Parc des Princes Stadium in Paris. Just for the record, they actually lost the EURO 2008 qualifier against Scotland 1-0.
Les Bleus have, in fact, been playing their home games at the Stade de France ever since 1998 but last September it was strictly reserved for the Rugby World Cup, forcing them to return to their old haunt, evoking several nostalgic memories despite their defeat. After all, it was here against the affluent residential backdrop of Porte de Saint-Cloud that France claimed their first international title when they beat Spain 2-0 for the European Championship crown on 27 June 1984.
The Parc des Princes was constructed in 1972 to designs by architect Roger Taillibert. “This stadium was the turning point in my career,” he reminisces, “as the structure of the building was unprecedented anywhere in the world. 1 have designed many other sports centres since then, but everywhere I go — whether to China or Venezuela — I am still introduced as the fellow who designed the Parc des Princes.” Taillibert was 41 when he won the bid in 1968. “The stadium should have been finished in 1972,” he recalls, “but existing contracts stipulated that the old arena had to be available for use until 1970. So we had to build without any scaffolding and without completing an attractive facade.” A further handicap was the motorway, the notorious ring road that was supposed to run underneath the stadium, resulting in the demolition and reconstruction of one whole stand for safety reasons. The architect was slated at the time for incurring costs of FFR 90 million (today approximately EUR 77 million), which was considered exorbitant. In fact, the costs had doubled. Taillibert comments: “If I had the chance again, I’d build the stadium differently. I think it’s a shame it wasn’t refurbished for the 1998 World Cup but instead only underwent a few cosmetic touches.”
POLITICS AND MENTALITY
The current Parc des Princes arena, skirting the borders of Paris and the suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt, is the third built on the same site.
The first stadium, inaugurated in 1897, was situated in a wooded area where kings, princes and noblemen had spent their time hunting, relaxing, strolling about and playing games. When the first road through the woods was built in 1855, it triggered an urban boom.
The existing sports complex actually includes the Roland Garros tennis centre just a stone’s throw away as well as the Parc des Princes. Before the complex was extended in 1979, a scientific research institute for chronophotography had to be demolished to make way for it. But there is still a dearth of parking spaces. Journalists who are given parking permits for the Parc des Princes regard them with more reverence than a seat in the press stand.
Many football fans the world over wonder why Paris Saint-Germain have not moved to the Stade de France but continue to play at the Parc des Princes, which they say could be sold off as city-centre development land at a preposterous price in the same way that the legendary Bokelberg stadium was disposed of in the German town of Monchengladbach.
The reasons for this decision are to be found in France’s politics and mentality. Apart from the fact that Paris Saint-Germain are currently undergoing some lean years and that an 80,000-capacity arena is rarely half full, the Stade de France belongs to the central government and the Pare des Princes to the city. Paris therefore subsidises its main first-division club with a handful of euros in return for the rent on the stadium. Any other questions?
The various Parc des Princes stadiums were used by Racing Club de Paris from 1932 to 1966 and Stade francais from 1945 to 1966. Paris Saint-Germain have been playing there since 1974, Racing Club de Paris returned between 1984 and 1990, and FC Paris made guest appearances between 1972 and 1974 as well as in the 1978-1979 season.
The number of world stars who have performed at the Parc des Princes is the stuff of dreams. To mention just a few, since being built in the 19th century, the Parc des Princes has twice hosted the Olympic Games and formed the backdrop to two FIFA World Cups™ (in 1938 and 1998), two European
Championship finals (in 1960 and 1984) and three European Cup finals (in 1956, 1975 and 1981). What is more, the world’s most famous cycling race, the Tour deFrance, has culminated no fewer than 54 times not on the Champs Elysees but at the Parc des Princes. Added to all this are the 59 rugby matches that were contested here during the Five Nations tournament. And French television’s first ever live broadcast of a sporting event also came from the Pare des Princes.