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French learn World Cup has downside

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World Cup victory gave the French soul a boost, President Jacques Chirac said, but France also has a mountain of unsold fuzzy stuffed roosters, huge overtime bills and disillusioned merchants.

On a grand scale, most French agree, the monthlong soccer extravaganza was a smashing success. But now, as accountants begin to tote up the francs and centimes, some see it as a mixed blessing.Although soccer fans came by the hundreds of thousands, the freer-spending tourists who normally fill up France each summer stayed away. At the same time, official spending soared because of mass littering, fighting in the streets and the constant underlying threat of terrorism.

Few figures are available yet, but the evidence is clear.

"Frankly, we expected better," said Yazid Chaboune, manager of Paris Souvenirs, on the Champs Elysees, which fans of every team made their headquarters.

"It is simple to understand," he said. "The good clientele, those who come to see Paris and buy souvenirs, won't show up until later. World Cup people only eat and drink. We get nothing."

But restaurateurs and hotel keepers had equal complaints.

"Business is off, probably by more than 10 percent for most of the better places," said Doreen Dempski, manager of the posh Laperouse Restaurant. "We had a few big parties. But that's it."

Laperouse had to cancel a major event for Christian Dior when the haute couture fashion shows were postponed. The Pret-a-Porter show was moved to New York to avoid clashing with the World Cup.

Bordeaux and Nantes reported minor windfalls, offset by heavy municipal expenditures. Marseille, Lyon and Toulouse saw the same phenonomenon as Paris.

"Football fans are a sandwich and pizza crowd," said Roland Frittoli, owner of Peron, Marseille's oldest eatery. "They live at camping sites and cook their own food. Nothing to earn there."