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France prepares to celebrate Bastille Day

The traditional military parade during Bastille Day celebrations in 2012.
The traditional military parade during Bastille Day celebrations in 2012. Reuters/Mal Langsdon

Preparations are well underway for traditional Bastille Day celebrations on Sunday, although the festivities are likely to be muted following the fatal train derailment south of Paris on Friday.

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This year, the traditional military parade down Paris’s Champs Elysées avenue will be led by Malian Lieutenant Elisée Jean Dao – a role usually reserved for a French officer. More than 200 soldiers from 13 African countries will participate in the parade, which kicks off at 9am.

Following the parade, French President François Hollande will give a televised interview outlining his policy achievements.

Hollande reinstated the traditional interview last year when he came to power. They were scrapped under former president Nicholas Sarkozy's leadership.

Although Hollande’s supporters say the interview is an important part of tradition, a survey published on Friday showed 51 percent of French people surveyed feel it is unnecessary, and will therefore not tune in to the highly-orchestrated affair.

But those who do intend to watch it would like Hollande to discuss employment (47% of respondents), reduction of public spending (46%) and retirement reform (25%).

At night, the National Orchestra of France and the Radio France choir will join forces to perform a concert at Champ de Mars, just opposite the Eiffel Tower.

This will be followed by the traditional fireworks at 11pm. The show will feature five “acts” paying homage to the French motto liberty, equality and fraternity.

Bastille Day commemorates the storming of the Bastille in 1789, which marked the start of the French Revolution.

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