Euro 2016 action begins despite terror threat and strike disruption


Euro 2016 kicks off under the shadow of terror threats and strike action across the Channel.

France is braced for around 10 million visitors for the month-long football bonanza which opens when the French take on Romania at the Stade de France on Friday night.

Superstar DJ David Guetta was taking centre stage at the opening ceremony involving more than 600 people.

Around 150 can-can dancers and an acrobatic demonstration by the French Air Force were also on the bill.

After the razzle dazzle of the debut night, it is down to the serious business of vying for the silverware when England open their campaign against Russia in Group B on Saturday evening.

Wales also play on Saturday, against Slovakia, while Northern Ireland take on Poland the following evening. Republic of Ireland fans will have to wait until Monday to see their team take on Sweden.

Welsh supporters flocked to bars across the city - including the Charles Dickens pub on Quai de la Douane - on Thursday evening to take on fluids after a sweltering day in Bordeaux, with temperatures peaking at 28C (82.4F).

The forecast among fans was largely optimistic too - with many hoping talisman Gareth Bale will play a key role for the side in their Group B games against Slovakia, England and Russia.

Three generations of the Hunt family from Port Talbot have travelled to south-west France to follow their side in their first major championships since 1958.

Les Hunt, 72, recalled watching Wales battle to the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Sweden more than half a century ago.

He said: "I really thought it was the beginning of something back then but it never happened. It's great to be here.

"As long as Bale is on the pitch, anything can happen. Other players are in awe of him."

His son Jason, a bookie, said: "I am pretty confident. I bought a camper van to take us here before we had qualified and we are just going to enjoy ourselves."

Grandson Jordan, 19, a web design student in Southampton, said: "It's a dream really to be here."

England fans have also set up camp at the Queen Victoria pub in Marseille with Leeds United and Sheffield Wednesday flags spotted hanging outside the pub near the Vieux Port.

Meanwhile, for fans who have not yet made the trip, there are warnings about disruption in France after a wave of travel strikes have brought chaos to the transport network.

Air France is cancelling 20-30% of its flights on Saturday because of a pilots' strike expected to last until Tuesday.

Trains have been cancelled across France in an industrial dispute between drivers and the rail service, while oil refineries were hit by blockades as part of an extensive protest movement against labour reforms.

Fans have also been warned to remain "vigilant at all times" in the face of the terrorism threat.

Updated advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has highlighted stadiums, fan zones, other venues broadcasting the tournament and transport hubs and links as potential targets.

British counter-terrorism officers are playing "a key part" in planning against attacks that may target the tournament and a team from the UK has travelled to France and is working with police and intelligence services there to assess possible threats.

Earlier this week, officials in Ukraine revealed they had arrested a Frenchman who was apparently inspired by extremist right-wing beliefs to plot a series of strikes in his homeland after buying an arsenal of weapons in an undercover sting.

A police operation targeting 29 UK ports in the run-up to the tournament began on Monday, with trained spotters trying to detect football hooligans attempting to sneak out of the country.

Currently 1,841 England fans and 86 Wales supporters are subject to banning orders that stop them travelling to the event.

Matches at Euro 2016 will be played across several stadia with a string of fan zones for thousands of supporters.

Eurostar said it is expecting more than half a million fans to travel to France during the tournament.