The French celebrated their Statue of Liberty centennial today as Miss Liberty's smaller and less famous sister was formally unveiled here after a year-long restoration effort.
The French ceremony provided a modest foretaste of what the United States has to look forward to over the Fourth of July holiday, when the original Statue of Liberty will be relit in New York harbor. There were national anthems, schoolchildren waving French and American flags, flowery speeches about transatlantic friendship, and a boatload of dignitaries headed by French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac cruising up the river Seine in the company of a Dixieland band.
Most important, there was Miss Liberty herself, draped in an assortment of stars, stripes and a red-white-and-blue Tricolor, gazing in the general direction of the New World.
The American community in Paris clubbed together in 1885 to give the statue to the French in gratitude for France's original gift to the United States.
The upbeat celebrations represented an opportunity for Chirac to repair the damage caused to Franco-U.S. relations by his government's refusal to cooperate with the American air raid on Libya. In a series of impromptu interviews, he said France and the United States shared common values including a joint determination to defend liberty, freedom and human rights.
"There aren't any bad feelings in France. If there are any in the United States, then I hope that they will disappear entirely as a result of these ceremonies," said Chirac, who is also mayor of Paris.
In a message read out at a reception afterward in the Paris city hall, President Reagan said he hoped the French statue would "long continue to remind all who view her of that most precious gift of democracy -- liberty for all."
Roughly a third the size of the American version, the French statue of liberty rises 52 feet above an island in the Seine in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. The surrounding skyline is the nearest Paris approaches to Manhattan: multi-story hotels and office blocs built in the 1960s and 1970s during the modernization drive of the late president Georges Pompidou.
Today's ceremony began with an emotional rendition of the "Star-Spangled Banner" by the American soprano Barbara Hendricks, who was decked out in a designer stars-and-stripes dress. Line Renaud, a French actress draped in the Tricolor, belted out the "Marseillaise." The children cheered. Chirac posed for pictures with U.S. Ambassador Joe M. Rodgers, standing in for New York Mayor Edward Koch.
Navy frogmen checked for mines under the official boat. Hefty bodyguards murmured into walkie-talkies. A fireboat spouted water in different directions. French and U.S. military bands struck up a march. A team of workmen pulled away the red, white and blue drapes to reveal a gleaming new Statue of Liberty. Chirac posed for more pictures with Barbara Hendricks.
Restoration of the French statue cost around $350,000 -- a tiny sum compared to the $30 million lavished on refurbishing the original. The biggest work consisted of plugging a large hole in the statue's right shoulder. The hole is believed to have been caused by a stray shell during fighting for the liberation of Paris from Nazi occupation in 1944.
For the French, the Statue of Liberty celebrations have largely been overshadowed by the World Cup soccer match in Mexico, in which France won a remarkable match Saturday over the favored team, Brazil. The other popular talking point here has been the death in a road accident of Coluche, a working class comic who elevated cynicism and rudeness into an art form.
Liberty fever, such as it is, has taken the form of kitsch. Shops are selling liberty towels, liberty lamps, liberty T-shirts and liberty crystal. A team of chefs last week completed work on an eight-foot two-inch chocolate replica of the Statue of Liberty, which has been dispatched to New York.
Today, at least, it was difficult to escape Miss Liberty. The ornate reception rooms at city hall were filled with replicas of the statue, both clothed and unclothed. As Chirac commented: "The Statue of Liberty is a symbol -- and symbols play an important role in the history between peoples.