17 Apr 2024

Paris Olympics 2024: 'Unprecedented' security will be in place

2:55 pm on 17 April 2024

By Dan Roan

Paris 2024 Olympics organising committee chairman Tony Estanguet

Paris 2024 Olympics organising committee chairman Tony Estanguet. Photo: Supplied

One hundred days out from the Paris Olympics opening ceremony, games chief Tony Estanguet says the Games will be protected by an "unprecedented" security operation.

Preparations for the Olympics are "in good shape", but organisers will "keep some humility, because we know in this kind of event anything can happen in the last stretch".

Estanguet added he was "very satisfied with where we stand at this moment".

He told BBC Sport: "My message is you can have confidence with this event."

Amid mounting concerns over safety, Estanguet said "I would like to reassure that it's non-negotiable. Security is the priority."

"It's the biggest event that France has ever organised, and we want to showcase the best of France. So definitely we are determined to be ready.

"We are looking forward to welcoming the world in Paris," he said.

"When I discussed this with [London 2012 chief] Seb Coe, he told me ... in the last 100 days, there will be more criticism, more people worried. It's exactly what is happening. My role is to remain calm, remain focused on what is very important to deliver.

"The venues are ready, the budget is balanced. We have very good ticket sales, the level of ambition is very high."

Opening ceremony

The opening ceremony is set to be the first to be held outside a stadium, with more than 10,000 athletes expected to sail along a 6km stretch of the Seine on 160 barges.

However, this week French President Emmanuel Macron said it could be relocated to either the Trocadero square or the Stade de France if the security risk is deemed too high. There are concerns that wars in Ukraine and Gaza could increase the threat.

"I trust in the system in place to secure this opening ceremony" said Estanguet, the president of the organising committee.

French President of the Paris Organising Committee of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games Tony Estanguet poses with olympics 2024 medals on February 01, 2024 at the Eiffel tower in Paris. On the medals' head side, the engraved figures of the goddess of victory Athena, Nike, the Panathenaic stadium and the Acropolis are imposed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) but Paris 2024 has obtained exceptional authorization to add the design of the Eiffel Tower, and use 18 grams of Eiffel Tower metal on each medal, extracted from pieces of the tower. (Photo by STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP)

Paris 2024 chief Tony Estanguet with Olympics medals at the Eiffel Tower Photo: AFP/Stephane de Sakutin

"It's the first time ever the objective is to have the maximum of people enjoying this moment. It's five times more than what happened in a stadium before... So it's a great opportunity."

Organisers had originally planned to accommodate some 600,000 people to watch the ceremony from riverbanks, but that has now been scaled down to 300,000. Tourists will not be given free access to watch the ceremony, as was originally planned. Instead, tickets will be by invitation only, not via open registration.

Security concerns

France raised its security threat level in October, when a teacher was killed in a knife attack in a school in Arras. In December, a German man died and two others were injured in a knife and hammer attack on a street in central Paris.

European security officials have warned of a growing risk of attacks by Islamist militants amid the Israel-Gaza war. Concerns have also been heightened following the threats by the Islamic State group (IS) to Champions League quarterfinal football matches including in Paris.

Last week, a post was shared by Al-Azaim Foundation, a media channel responsible for spreading messages from the IS-K branch of the Islamist militant group. IS-K also claimed responsibility for the deadly attack on Crocus City Hall in Moscow last month.

"We should not be too naive," Estanguet said.

"We know that people would try to benefit from this international media exposure. But again, it's up to us to remain calm to and to promote and defend what is most important in this event. And for me, it's sport.

"We are working also with different countries around the world to make sure it will be a safe place during the games. And there is strong co-operation. So, we can be confident."

- This story was first published by theBBC

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