IOC trusts French authorities to 'secure' Paris 2024

The French capital is preparing for one of the biggest security challenges in its history: 600,000 people are expected to attend the unprecedented Opening Ceremony on the Seine and an average of 40,000 security personnel will be on duty every day. The IOC has full confidence in the “plans in place.”

Security is always a top priority for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. The current global risk and alert situation, particularly in France, requires increased precautions. Last Thursday, Christophe Dubi, IOC Executive Director, and Mark Adams, IOC spokesperson, said at a press conference to open the Youth Olympic Winter Games in Gangneung: “We have a very high level of confidence that the French authorities will make the Games safe.”

In December, the Paris Prefecture and the members of the specially created commissions provided the IOC with detailed documentation, analysed by security experts, outlining the plans and methods they will use to ensure security throughout the event.

16 days of competition will require the vigilance and protection of numerous venues. But the most ambitious challenge is undoubtedly the Opening Ceremony, which will be held outdoors on the Seine for the first time in Olympic history. Security will be complicated by the fact that the athletes will be travelling on more than 150 boats on the river. 

So difficult, in fact, that French President Emmanuel Macron admitted last month that the ceremony could be moved to the stadium if full security could not be guaranteed. 

“All the necessary resources are being mobilised, with around 45,000 security personnel for the opening ceremony and around 35,000 for each of the other days, 24 hours a day,” IOC leaders told the media at last Thursday’s conference.

More than 500,000 people are expected to attend. The number of spectators has been gradually reduced. Security plans have been tightened to fortify the venue. Security officials have spent many months analysing, reporting and checking every last detail. However, the main concern remains the potential threat from lone wolf attackers, who are more likely to evade control. 

Unfortunately, France has already experienced such attacks. This week, the IOC Executive Board met in Gangneung during the Youth Olympic Winter Games to discuss the latest information on security plans for Paris 2024. 

Since the planning of the programme of activities, the security of the Olympic Games has been one of the most time-consuming tasks for the Organising Committee. Various problems arose. These were gradually resolved over time to ensure that everything was well in place six months before the event. The need to protect the events and the participants was so great. The lack of available security personnel became a problem.

The organisers had to hire private companies to provide security. In November, optimism prevailed. It was expected that everything needed for security personnel would be put out to tender by the beginning of 2024. The Organising Committee has always been clear that where public resources are insufficient, private resources will have to be used in addition to public resources. 

In addition, the possibility of using the military to provide coverage and reinforcement in areas where private security is insufficient has not been ruled out. Earlier this year [2024], the French authorities also postponed a decision on how many soldiers could be deployed if needed. The attack in Paris last December, in which a German teenager was stabbed to death near the Eiffel Tower, near the Bir-Hakeim steel bridge, has created new uncertainty. 

During the Games, these areas will become centres of competition, and the potential vulnerability of security has again created a nervous atmosphere, despite reassuring messages from IOC leaders, such as those delivered in Gangneung last Thursday.

The chaotic Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid in Paris is still fresh in everyone’s mind. Thousands of unruly fans from both teams roamed the city, and the authorities were unable to intervene effectively. The tension even forced the police to use tear gas. 

All these incidents are in the past. The security authorities have studied the situation in great detail in order to overcome it, but it has contributed to creating an atmosphere of unease. The date is fast approaching and the number of expected visitors is increasing, to the point where restrictions are being put in place.

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