Drones considered the biggest security threat to Olympics

How many people will be able to watch the first ever outdoor opening ceremony of an Olympic Games on site in the summer next year? The answer is still unclear, as France’s Minister of the Interior Gerald Darmanin talked about “hundreds of thousands of people” when asked that question.

The opening ceremony of the Paris Olympic Games will start at 8:24 p.m. on July 26, 2024, and will last three hours, confirmed Paris 2024 president Tony Estanguet in a recent press conference, as the French government, the organizing committee and the French capital’s mayor signed a security protocol.

Some 116 boats will be hired to transport over 10,000 athletes, sailing six kilometers from Pont d’Austerlitz to the Pont d’Iena, with several iconic monuments such as Notre Dame, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower serving as a backdrop.

Around 100,000 tickets will be sold for exclusive riverside positions with a price of up to 2,700 euros. Those who wish to watch the open-air gala for free will need to pre-register for tickets.

“We think that a very large number of people who want to see these Olympics will be able to do so in complete safety,” Darmanin said about the pre-register policy, though the exact figure remains unclear.

The organizers initially expected a total number of 600,000 places, but in February, Valerie Pecresse, public transportation chief of the Ile-de France region, demanded that the figure was cut to “less than 500,000”, citing “insufficient transport capacity.”

Since then, behind the scenes, several political and police sources have mentioned a figure of 400,000 to French media. On May 16, Minister of Sports Amelie Oudea-Castera also mentioned a gauge “around 400,000”, still to be refined.

Darmanin, in charge of Olympic security, answered with vague words last Tuesday, saying “hundreds of thousands” of spectators will sit on the high quays to watch the grand show.

Regarding the security forces, 37,000 members will be deployed, including 2,000-3,000 private security agents on duty for the opening ceremony. Darmanin also said that personal leave would be cancelled for police personnel for the duration of the Games, which run from July 26 to August 11.

Darmanin stressed that drones were considered the biggest security threat, but he added air defence technology was available and would be trialed later this year during the Rugby World Cup in France.

“It’s a new threat. It’s not certain that anything will happen but it is certainly the most difficult to prepare for,” he said. ■

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