By Zhifan Liu
PARIS (Reuters) – France will deploy 35,000 security agents and the military to secure the 2024 Olympic Games opening ceremony, a river parade through the heart of Paris, from security threats including drone strikes, the interior minister said.
Hundreds of thousands of spectators are expected to line the Seine river along the 6km route to watch the national delegations sail in a flotilla of boats from the Austerlitz Bridge to the foot of the Eiffel Tower.
Following a COVID-hit Tokyo Games held behind closed doors, Paris promises a sporting spectacle open to the masses but faces multiple security risks, from strikes conducted with drones and cyberattacks to climate activists and anti-government protesters.
Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said reinforcements would come from the Defence Ministry. France’s military is tasked with leading the country’s defences against drone attacks.
“Drones represent a totally new threat. We’ve done a lot of work on the classic threat, whether it’s delinquents, whether it is a person armed with a weapon, a bomb, whatever that bomb… We know how to detect and combat this threat,” Darmanin told a press conference.
“The arrival of drones loaded with explosives in the theatre of civilian operations is new. There is no certainty this threat will materialise, but it is the hardest to stop.”
Darmanin said the government would be asking police forces elsewhere in Europe to step up their intelligence sharing of individuals who might pose a terrorism threat to prevent them arriving on French soil.
He said France had also asked the European Commission it be allowed to reinstate border controls during the Olympics and this year’s Rugby World Cup for people arriving from countries within the passport-free Schengen Area, which allows the unrestricted movement of people.
The European Commission would no doubt grant France its request but Paris was still awaiting a response, the minister continued.
Reuters revealed that Paris 2024 organisers have been planning to install the Olympic flame on the Eiffel Tower, although not atop the monument.
Darmanin said he expected more than 600,000 people would attend the Games’ launch event, including 100,000 who will be paying up to 2,700 euros each for a seat on the river’s lower banks.
Spectators able to see holograms on the water, dancers on the roofs of nearby buildings and aerial shows.
“We know that the planet’s biggest event will attract a lot of people who want to party, and then without a doubt some others who want to spoil the party,” said Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo.
(Reporting by Zhifan Liu; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Christian Radnedge)