Given all the breast-beating about street violence in the UK, it is interesting to see that the French authorities are congratulating themselves that the national sport of car burning seems to be under control.
This year, as part of the New Year "celebrations", only 372 cars were torched in the French banlieues, compared with 397 last year, with a mere 259 people arrested.
The "normal" marker is about 50 cars burned each and every weekend, although when there is something very special to celebrate, the tally goes up. On the night of the presidential elections in May, for instance, Muslim rioters set fire to 367 cars – slightly less than the New Year tally. To compensate, arrests were slightly higher at 270.
However, while the French tally seems to get special media attention, it is worth noting that, in the UK, "malicious car fires" seem to be as much of a problem. From about 40,000 in the year in 1996, the last available figures (2002) show a near doubling, to about 70,000 in the year, or close to 200 a day.
Considering how popular this sport has become, one wonders whether it should be included in the Olympics for 2012 - but there is absolutely no truth in the rumour that Renault are looking to sponsor the event.