Nice terror attack, Cannes and the Palais des Festivals

The date: 14 July. The location: The Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai's Colaba area. French consul general Yves Perrin plays host to businessmen, politicians, artistes, entertainment professionals, journalists like he does every year on Bastille Day to celebrate France’s National Day. Wine, champagne, and a mouth watering menu of French cuisine is rustled up by the Taj’s chefs and served to those who have a linkage with France. That’s of course after the customary playing of the French national anthem and the speech by the honorary counsel general. The evening proceeds well and late into the night as guests mingle and enjoy each other’s company.

Some 4,000-odd miles away in the picturesque city of Nice in the south of France, the entire Palais des Anglais is choc-a-bloc with general members of the public. The mood is celebratory. The bright summer sky, and the azure blue sea, are what the French Riviera town is known and has drawn tens of thousands of tourists during the holiday period.

The local Nice government has planned an evening of fireworks and music to celebrate France’s National Day. Tourists and locals have been looking forward to an evening of revelry and gaiety. The main street is cordoned off courtesy the roadblocks that have been erected. Young couples with their children in prams, some with their elderly parents, kids with their parents, groups of young are lounging about, walking around relaxed.

Suddenly, a white truck comes down the crowded road, swaying from side to side, driven at 40-50 miles per hour in a zig-zag motion and bodies start to fly. A scramble starts as word gets around further down the Promenade that a killer is on the loose. In the meanwhile, scores are hit by the white truck; some die on the spot; some are critically injured.

In a matter of a few more minutes, the police shoot and kill the driver of the truck. Before that, however, the manic truck has inflicted maximum damage. On the street lie mangled, broken, twisted bodies, bleeding.

Celebration has turned to shock. 84 people die, 10 children, and many more are hospitalized, critically injured.

The horror of that attack spreads across the world. A must-visit tourist destination, Nice has been relatively safe for years and is the gateway to Cannes, which houses the Palais des Festivals. A majority of the world’s biggest and most famous exhibitions and festivals are held in the building– the Lions, the Film Festival, Mipcom, MipTV, Midem, Toys, Mipim and many others. Nice airport is where everybody lands and takes a cab or a bus to Cannes.

About 300 film professionals from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh attend the Cannes Film Festival, another 100-odd ad & marketing executives the Cannes Lions, and about 400 attend the TV and music markets – Mipcom, Mip TV and Midem every year.

Cannes is where Indian broadcast, film, animation, production and music executives go to do business, buying and selling content, signing co-production and syndication deals. And have been doing so for many years.

Should they continue visiting it now? Is it safe enough?

Indeed, it is as safe as Mumbai’s Taj Mahal Hotel where France’s National Day celebrations were held on the same ill-fated evening. One can’t forget that a few years ago, the Taj Mahal Hotel itself was the target of a terrorist attack which left hundreds dead. Did we stop visiting the Taj Mahal Hotel?

Visitors to Cannes and its exhibitions can be assured that France is going to step up its security to maximum. An additional 10,000 soldiers have been deployed on its streets. A state of emergency has been extended by another three months. Border controls are being strengthened. Because Nice has been hit, it is going to get heightened security attention. Ditto with Cannes .

Expect visa formalities for those wanting to visit Schengen nations to get stricter (so please apply for your visas early; don’t make last minute applications). Expect airport security to be more vigilant. Already for the past six months visitors to Nice have had to go through an additional immigration check at the airport even if they have made their entry into Europe from another country.

Additionally, even the administrators of the towns of Nice and Cannes are going to take strong security measures to build confidence and really keep visitors safe. One has to only go back to the measures that the Palais des Festivals took after the 911 attacks, with body scans and X-ray machines. Queues used to be pretty long then.

Reed Midem is also going put its best behind making Mipcom –which is the next big event slated to take place from 15-20 October in Cannes – safer for attendees. And it has been known take extreme measures to support its clients. Like refunding money to clients who were afflicted by the floods during the festival last year. Like contributing to the Cannes city to help it in its rehabilitation.

Most agree that the only way to keep at bay those who want to damage nations and their people is to stay resolute and continue to do business as usual. Let us translate that into action.

(Anil Wanvari is the founder, editor in chief of the Indiantelevision.com group and also the India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh representative of Reed Midem’s Mipcom, MipTV, Midem and Mipim markets)

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