France scaling down the size of Olympics opening event

2024-03-07 Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

France has reduced the planned scale of July's Paris 2024 Olympic Games opening ceremony on the River Seine due to concerns about a potential terror attack, moving from an initially envisioned crowd of 2 million to 600,000 spectators.

During a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday, France's Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin revealed that a total of 326,000 tickets will be distributed for the opening showpiece event, marking the first time a precise number has been disclosed, reported Agence France-Presse.

Vessels carrying each nation's flag-bearers will set sail on the water in central Paris, with 104,000 spectators enjoying the festivities on the waterfront and 222,000 others observing from bridges and streets, setting a record for size because previous opening ceremonies have been held in stadiums.

The total is approximately half the number of spectators initially proposed by Darmanin, who had mentioned in October 2022 the potential of accommodating 600,000 individuals.

"We will have 104,000 spectators on the lower bank who have paid for a ticket," Darmanin told lawmakers. "Then you have 222,000 people on the higher banks (with free tickets)."

An additional 200,000 individuals would observe the July 26 parade from buildings overlooking the Seine, he said, noting an extra 50,000 would watch from fan zones across the capital.

The Politico news website cited an unnamed senior official from the interior ministry saying France's President Emmanuel Macron had insisted on reducing the capacity due to security concerns.

The website also cited a top official as saying French intelligence services had not identified any specific plans for terror attacks targeting the games.

A substantial portion of central Paris will be restricted in advance of the competition, and will be exclusively accessible to ticket-holders and local residents or employees. French security forces aim to screen around 1 million individuals, including athletes, journalists, and residents near key infrastructure.

The Olympics is set to take place from July 26 to Aug 11, and the local organizing committee has aimed to create an "iconic" Paris Olympics that departs from previous norms in the presentation of the world's largest sporting spectacle.

Speaking at the parliamentary hearing, Marc Guillaume, the top security official for the Paris region, said a total of 180 boats will navigate along a 6-kilometer stretch of the Seine, with 94 of them carrying athletes.

"No country has informed us that they do not want to take part," Darmanin added. "They have confidence in our organization."

Special security measures would be considered for high-risk delegations, including teams from the United States and Israel, according to the executive overseeing planning and risk management with the Paris organizing committee.

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