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September 26, 2017

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Hollande oversees windy Bastille Day

PARIS -- Military jets trailing exhaust in the red, white and blue of the French flag opened Francois Hollande's first Bastille Day parade as president on Saturday and parachutists gliding in on chutes in the same patriotic colors ended it, thumping down on Paris' famed Champs-Elysees in front of the new French leader.

Under an overcast sky, the pomp celebrating the 1789 beginnings of the French revolution began with bagpipes, dressage and several renditions of the Marseillaise national anthem. Booming jets then performed overflights in formation before a stream of military units and tanks began rolling down the Champs.

Fierce gusts of wind knocked one of the parachutists off his mark at the parade's finale, sending him about a half-mile away from his target to the Place de la Concorde. Hollande swung by after the parade to check in on the wayward jumper as he recovered by a fountain, and he told the French leader he had sprained his knee but was otherwise fine.

The sun struggled to shine through the clouds, but the weather was a vast improvement on Hollande's last trip down the avenue: Pouring rain soaked his suit and clouded his glasses as he waved from his open-top car on the day of his inauguration.

First lady Valerie Trierweiler watched the parade from the first row — but she and other companions of dignitaries sat separate from their partners, as in years past.

Hollande said on Saturday the players who represented France at soccer should take a leaf out of the book of the young men who don the French army uniform.

Socialist Hollande—elected in May unseating right-wing incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy—said in a televised interview after the Bastille Day military parade the recent poor headlines engendered by several members of the France Euro 2012 squad had nothing to do with a lack of integration into French society.

"Look at the soldiers who marched here, they don't earn a lot of money and they are prepared to give their lives.

"Among these young men who marched, who are in theatres of war, they come from all walks of life, including the most difficult areas, therefore the French soccer players' problem is not one of integration but of respect."

"It is not results that I judge them on, it is their attitude.

"When one wears the French team jersey, you have to be on your best behavior."

He also said that he had told those close to him to resolve personal issues in private, reacting to an incendiary tweet by his partner Valerie Trierweiler.

"Private affairs are resolved in private. And I have told this to those close to me so they can scrupulously accept this principle," Hollande said during the interview

The tweet at the height of France's parliamentary election campaign last month saw Trierweiler backing an opponent of Segolene Royal, the president's ex-partner and mother of their four children.

The tweet received widespread media coverage with the French press calling it an "embarrassment" to Hollande.

Bastille Day marks the July 14, 1789, storming of the Bastille prison by angry Paris crowds that helped spark the French Revolution.

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