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Francois Hollande opens Bordeaux wine theme park – Cité du Vin

French president François Hollande has officially opened Bordeaux's 80-million-euro Cité du Vin wine centre, despite a backdrop of national strikes plus protests at the venue from campaigners against pesticide use in vineyards.

Hollande took to the stage alongside one of his main political enemies, Bordeaux mayor Alain Juppé, to officially open the Bordeaux wine theme park on Tuesday 31 May.

Presidential hopeful Alain Juppé welcomed Hollande amid tight security, kicking off a day of events to mark the €81 million ‘Cité du Vin’ that has taken several years to build and which founders hope will become the Guggenheim of wine.

French president Francois Hollande tours Bordeaux Cité du Vin

French president Francois Hollande tours Bordeaux Cité du Vin, with city mayor Alain Juppé in the background. Credit: Mehdi Fedouach / AFP / Getty Images

But, Hollande’s visit was soured by protesters who staged a ‘lie-in’ at the venue to symbolise deaths from chemicals used routinely in viticulture – albeit they were kept beyond a police cordon. The Bordeaux area has some of the biggest pesticide use in France.

There were also protests in Bordeaux over the ongoing national dispute surrounding labour reforms.

Hollande mentioned the fight against pesticides in his speech, but concentrated mainly on the importance of the wine sector to the French economy.

‘Wine is part of our cultural and gastronomic heritage but also our landscape,’ Hollande said. ‘It symbolises how France is seen by the outside world; a country of freedom and culture and an emblem of the enviable lifestyle of which we are so proud.’

Related content: How Bordeaux Cité du Vin was built

The French government has directly contributed only 2% of the budget for the Cité du Vin project. Bordeaux city authorities have contributed to 38% of the cost, with the rest coming from private donors, including châteaux owners.

It is thought Bordeaux’s wine theme park will attract 450,000 visitors per year, with around 40% from overseas. If true, this would be worth €38 million annually to Bordeaux, it is estimated.

Bordeaux currently attracts six million visitors per year, with 500,000 expected for the 10th edition of Bordeaux Fête Le Vin during the last weekend of June and the same again for the Euro 2016 football championship that begins on 10 June.

Editing by Chris Mercer

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