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Fêtes de Bayonne opens amid tight security

Up to 1million people expected at annual event, which runs until Sunday, July 28

Up to 1million visitors are expected to head to southwest France over the next few days for the Fêtes de Bayonne.

The annual event kicked off on Wednesday evening, amid tight security, when thousands of people were on hand to see symbolic keys to the city thrown to red-and-white clad "festayres" for the duration of the event - which runs until Sunday, July 28.

Former France rugby international Yannick Bru, now coach of Bayonne's Top 14 promotion-winning side, and club captain Antoine Battut officially declared the 2019 Fêtes open. They followed a tradition of celebrities taking part in the ceremony - including Johnny Hallyday in 1972 and Yannick Noah in 2007.

Since 2018, organisers have imposed an entrance fee of €8 to the city centre during the festival to cover security costs - tightened in the wake of the terror attack in Nice on July 14, 2016. Last year, the fees raised €750,000 to the total €1million cost of security.

Some 600 members of security forces and almost as many security guards from a private company are responsible for the supervision and smooth running of the event. In addition, Operation Sentinel forces have also been mobilised.

For the full programme of events this year, click here

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