French Olympic Games Opening Ceremony May Use Plan B Or Plan C If River Parade Looks Risky, Says Macron.

Image: Olympics.com. An artist's impression of what the Olympic Games opening ceremony on the Seine river might look like.
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France is taking no chances in the face of terrorism threats ahead of the Olympic Games which is scheduled to be held in Paris this summer.

The biggest concern is about the opening ceremony which is planned to take place using a flotilla of boats to parade the athletes along a 4-mile stretch of the Seine river through the center of Paris. Huge crowds are expected to watch from the embankments, and no doubt merchants in the riverside area will benefit hugely.

According to Olympics.com:

Holding a ceremony open to a large audience, with no admission fee for most of its spectators, is a major first. Fans won’t need tickets to access the upper quays, but those wishing to access the lower quays, from the Austerlitz bridge to the Iéna bridge, will need to buy tickets.

Eighty giant screens and strategically placed speakers will allow everyone to enjoy the magical atmosphere of this show reverberating throughout the French capital.

The Opening Ceremony for the Olympic Games Paris 2024 will be the largest in Games history. It will be open to all: residents from Paris and its region, as well as visitors from all over France and around the world.

President Macron told French media BFM-TV and RMC that  France’s security and police forces will be gving the highest priority to the security of the open-air event.

Conflict in the Middle East and Ukraine as well as a threat of terrorist attacks have led the French government to raise its security alert to its highest level.

Macron said he was confident the planned Games ceremony with huge crowds around the Seine, where some 160 boats would set off for a 6 km journey, would be a huge success.

But France, he added, is not naive.

“But if we think there are risks, depending on our analysis of the context, we have fallback scenarios,” Macron said. “There are plan Bs and plan Cs.”

The July 26 event is set to be the first Olympic opening ceremony held outside a stadium setting.

All the athletes will parade through the heart of the French capital on boats on the Seine along the route ending in front of the Trocadéro.

To limit security risks, Macron said organizers could decide to shorten the itinerary of the parade on the Seine, and even to “repatriate the ceremony to the Stade de France” for a more conventional opening event.

The French government has decided that tourists won’t be given free access to watch the opening ceremony because of security concerns. Free access will be invitation-only to local residents instead.

Macron insisted that, for now, plans for the opening ceremony remain more-or-less the same.

“It’s a world first. We can do it and we will do it,” the French President said.

France has repeatedly been hit by deadly Islamic State attacks, including the Bataclan theater massacre in 2015 in which extremists opened fire on concert-goers and held hostages for hours. French troops have also fought against Islamic extremists in the Middle East and Africa.

Last month, the French government increased its security alert posture to the highest level after the deadly attack at a Russian concert hall and the Islamic State’s claim of responsibility.

Macron said that security perimeters will be installed “days, even weeks” before the opening ceremony. He added that road traffic in the high-security zone will be brought to a standstill, and that French authorities will use “drone systems, coding, cyber protection,” in their safeguarding efforts.

Answering to a viewer who expressed concerns about her son attending the opening ceremony, Macron said “If there’s one place where your son will be safe, it’s here.”

“There are always risks in life,” he said. “And we see it every day, unfortunately. But we’ve given ourselves the means to do it.”

Macron, who gave his interview from Paris’ Grand Palais museum, which has just been refurbished to host the fencing and taekwondo competitions, said he had not changed his mind about swimming in the Seine.

Paris has been working on cleaning up the Seine so that people can swim in it again, as was the case during the 1900 Paris Olympics. But a sewer problem last summer led to the cancellation of a pre-Olympics swimming event.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is also promising to swim in the Seine – more than three decades after her predecessor Jacques Chirac famously promised to do it but never did.

During the hour-long interview, Macron also said he wants “to do everything possible to have an Olympic truce” for the Paris Games, amid a risk of an escalating conflict in the Middle East, Russia’s war in Ukraine, now in its third year, and Sudan, hurtling towards a large-scale calamity of starvation and mass death after a year-long war.

The Olympic Truce is a modern revival of the ancient Greek tradition to ensure warring city states allowed safe passage for athletes to the games.

Sources: AP News, Olympics.com, Swissinfo.ch

 

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