Terrorism and cyber attacks are the two main risks the Paris Olympics faces, with a potentially highly exposed opening ceremony, but organisers are confident they will be ready to face the challenge next year.
Paris 2024 is launching the third of four waves of tenders for private security, which will result in the presence of 17,000-22,000 agents a day - including 2,000 for the opening ceremony, which will be a long parade on the Seine River attended by possibly 600,000 people.
Some 30,000 police officers and soldiers will also be mobilised to secure the surroundings on July 26.
“For the opening ceremony, there is a specific protocol with the state and the Paris City Hall. We’re confident that we’re on track, that we will reach our goals,” Paris 2024 Security director Bruno Le Ray told reporters on Thursday.
He added that the security budget of 320 million euros ($349.02 million) was unchanged.
“The first risk is the terrorist risk. We’ve integrated it, unfortunately, in all security plans,” said Thomas Collomb, security executive director for Paris 2024.
He was deputy head of safety and security for official sites at the Euro 2016 soccer finals seven months after the Nov. 2015 Islamist attacks which involved a simultaneous assault by gunmen and suicide bombers on entertainment venues and cafes in Paris.
“Since 2015, the terrorist risk is being taken into account. Cyber threat is the other main risk,” added Collomb. “Drones are also a subject, armies have been facing that risk for a while now. It has been in the security plan for the Games since 2019.”
Last week, Paris 2024 called for vigilance after French security services said they had uncovered a disinformation campaign emanating from Azerbaijan that aimed to undermine the French capital’s capacity to hold the event.
In January, France’s top audit body warned that the opening ceremony on the River Seine posed a “major challenge”, highlighting concerns around a reliance on private security operators to protect the Games.
Le Ray, who was Paris’s military governor at the time of the 2015 Paris attacks, said the private security market was “tense”, with an estimated shortage of 20,000 agents nationwide, but insisted the recruitment process through tenders was “on time”.
“The opening ceremony is the biggest event from a security perspective we’ve seen in a long tome in Europe,” Brittany Jacobs, sport management department chair at American Public University System, told Reuters.
“I think there will always be something that goes wrong but the question is are you ready for something that goes wrong.
“There are concerns about drones, terrorist groups, something inevitably will go wrong whenever you have an event like this in open space.”
Jacobs, however, believes organisers are nowadays “more prepared” than in 1996 when one person was killed and 111 others injured in the Atlanta Olympic Park bombing during the Games.
“The risks and rewards are both potentially really high. We will be talking about it (the Paris opening ceremony) for decades,” she added.
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