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Sunday, 2 January 2005  
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World's highest bridge inaugurated

The world's highest bridge, another impressive technical marvel, was opened in the ancient town of Millau, France last month.

The creation, which is taller than the Eiffel Tower and longer than the Champs Elysees, both of them in France, was officially inaugurated by French President Jacques Chirac.The slender and delicate-looking white bridge is the brainchild of British architect Norman Foster and was designed to end the huge traffic block in southern France.

Situated in the beautiful area known as Tarn Valley, over the river Tarn, it will provide a new motorway link between Paris and the Spanish border, easing traffic jams in the Rhone Valley during the busy summer months. It is part of the A75 motorway which links the cities of Clermont-Ferrand to Beziers.

The bridge has seven concrete pillars of which the highest stands at 343 metres (1,125 feet), 19 metres (62 feet) higher than the Eiffel Tower. At almost 2.5 kilometres (1.5 miles), it is longer than the Champs Elysees (the official residence of the French president). It is designed with a slight curve to provide drivers a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside and of Millau with its medieval bell tower.

The 394 million euro (US$ 523 million) project was financed by the construction company Eiffage, which has a 75-year concession to operate the Millau bridge. The company has guaranteed the structure for 120 years.

Eiffage will charge 4.60 euros in the low season and 6.50 euros in the summer months of July and August for cars using the bridge. Lorries will pay 19 euros.

Where the President holds office

The Old Parliament, which now houses the Presidential Secretariat and the Finance Ministry, is an imposing building that you won't miss if you are travelling past the Galle Face Green in Colombo. Despite the many high-rises dotting the area, this building still manages to hold its own.

It housed the Sri Lankan Legislature for 53 years till the New Parliament was opened at Sri Jayawardenepura in 1983. It was in this historic building that all discussions on reconstructing post-independent Sri Lanka took place.

The building was constructed between 1920 and 1930 to house the Legislative Council as a result of an idea mooted by Sir Henry E. McCallum. The proposal made by a committee to construct the new building for 'the Secretariat, Council Chamber and Government offices on reclaimed land at the northern end of Galle Face' were accepted by the Government in 1920.

The old parliament has been designed according to the 'Ionic Style', one of the five architectural orders, and resembles the temple of the Greek Goddess, Athena on the Acropolis hill at Athens, Greece, about which we have already talked. Chief architect of the Public Works Department, A. Woodson was responsible for the design of the old parliament.

The building was designed with an open outlook in a way that it will benefit from the sea breezes. The Council Chamber, which later came to be known as the Parliament Chamber, was located in its centre, protected from the noise outside and the strong breezes. The initial estimate of Rs 400,000 for the scheme was later revised by the Public Works Advisory Board to Rs 450,000, taking into account the extra expenses involved.

The building, the Legislative Council as it was then known, was opened on January 29, 1930 by Governor Sir Herbert J. Stanley. It was renamed as the State Council a year later, and designed to house the State Council from 1931 to 1947.

The Soulbury Commission was adopted in 1947 and the building was known as the House of Representatives from 1947 to 1972. After the 1972 Constitution, it was renamed as the National State Assembly; this name was used upto 1978. After the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka was introduced in September 1978, it was renamed as the Parliament building. The presentation of the Speaker's Chair and the Mace by the House of Commons of Britain to Sri Lanka took place in these premises in 1949.

The British Coat-of-Arms, which was displayed prominently on the front of the building was replaced with the insignia (official badge) of Ceylon after independence and with the insignia of Sri Lanka in 1972.

It has functioned as the Presidential Secretariat and the Office of the Executive President since 1983. This is where all important official announcements are made and appointments of the State are administered.

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