Paris Olympics

Paris faces major security challenges in first post-COVID Games


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Paris faces major security challenges in first post-COVID Games

WHEN IN PARIS. Olympic rings to celebrate the IOC official announcement that Paris won the 2024 Olympic bid are seen in front of the Eiffel Tower at the Trocadero square in Paris, France, September 14, 2017.

Christian Hartmann/REUTERS

Paris Games organizers plan what they describe as a spectacular and first-ever opening ceremony staged outside an Olympic stadium

BERLIN, Germany – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) hopes the 2024 Paris Games will be the “light at the end of the tunnel” after two COVID-hit Olympics, but organizers face major security challenges before a unique opening ceremony on July 26.

The IOC has been looking forward to a return to Olympic normality in Paris after both the Tokyo Games, delayed by a year to 2021, and the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing were staged without spectators or visitors due to the virus.

That will change in Paris, with organizers planning what they describe as a spectacular and first-ever opening ceremony staged outside an Olympic stadium.

Hundreds of thousands of spectators are expected to line the banks of the river Seine to watch the world’s biggest multi-sports event kick off in style.

For the 16 days of competition that follow until the Games close on August 11, however, organizers will be on high alert to ensure the event goes off safely.

France raised its security alert to the highest level in October when a Chechen-origin man fatally stabbed a teacher in an attack at a school in northern France.

Bomb alerts in tourist attractions such as the Louvre museum and Palace of Versailles have also increased in the wake of the Hamas attack in Israel on October 7 and the ensuing war in Gaza.

French sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said earlier this month there was no “plan B” for the opening ceremony, her comments coming just days after a man armed with a knife and hammer killed a German tourist and left two people wounded near the Eiffel Tower.

The attack occurred on the Quai de Grenelle – a spot also included in the plans for the opening ceremony.

‘Unprecedented’ security

Keeping athletes and spectators safe is the top priority for organizers and they have put in place an “unprecedented” security plan for the Games that comes with a 320 million euros ($348.74 million) price tag and will see tens of thousands of police officers and private security personnel deployed.

Some 30,000 police officers alone will safeguard the opening ceremony.

A sharp rise in anti-Semitic acts around the world since the war in Gaza began also brings the security of Israel’s athletes at the Games into sharp focus.

Officials from Israel’s Olympic committee have told Reuters they were in close collaboration with stakeholders to ensure the safety of their athletes, without providing specific details.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 also poses problems for organizers, with the IOC allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in Paris as neutrals without flags, anthems, or emblems.

Paris Games officials said they will welcome the neutral athletes and respect the IOC’s decision but the move has left Ukraine frustrated and pondering its own participation.

Kyiv government officials said they would decide whether Ukraine’s athletes take part in the Games at a later date.

With just over six months to go until the event gets underway, Paris organizers and the IOC still have some heavy lifting to do to make sure the Games are exactly what they were meant to be – the world’s biggest celebration of sports. –

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