France prepares contingency plan for Olympics opening ceremony amid rising terror threat

Paris officials set up a display of the Olympic rings on Trocadero plaza overlooking the Eiffel Tower, ahead of the vote in Lima, Peru, awarding the 2024 Games to the French capital, France, Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
By John Cody
3 Min Read

The organizers of the Paris Olympics have a “Plan B” in case terror threats jeopardize the event’s opening ceremony.

The original proposal was to open this year’s Games with 300,000 spectators, but after the terrorist attacks in Moscow, organizers had to devise a contingency plan.

Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, the minister for Sport and the Olympics, said in a television interview that they would be able to change the original idea if they were forced to, but did not divulge much regarding the alternative idea.

The organizers have leaked information that the venue would not be changed, but that the volume of the parade would be reduced, for example by not allowing athletes to board boats taking them along the river Seine to the stadium, reserving these for entertainers participating in the opening ceremony.

“There is no terrorist threat to the Olympics and Paralympics today, but we will continue to monitor the situation,” Oudéa-Castéra told France 2. “Just because we don’t talk about it, just because we don’t mention Plan B, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.”

France has asked dozens of countries to send security forces to its territory. The 2024 Paris Olympics is a high-security event and there remains a high terrorist threat from Islamic radicals and fears of retaliation by Palestinian terrorists because of the war in Israel.

The issue was raised after the Islamic State terrorist attack in Moscow two weeks ago, in which 144 people were killed. Following this, the French government raised the alert level to its highest level for a “terrorist emergency.” A few days later, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin indicated that 1 million people would be screened in the run-up to the Olympics and that France was ready to maintain security.

The opening ceremony of the Paris Summer Olympics on July 26 is currently expected to attract 326,000 spectators, 222,000 of whom will be able to watch the show for free. The ceremony is scheduled to include 180 boats carrying delegations along a 6-kilometer stretch of the Seine from Austerlitz Bridge to the Eiffel Tower.

Of the fleet, 94 will carry the athletes and 86 will be reserved for the security and technical teams.

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