The Euro 2016 tournament that kicks off in two weeks will be a nightmare for French security forces already worn down by last year’s terrorist attacks and ongoing political protests is Saturday night’s soccer match between Paris Saint-Germain and Marseille was any indication.
Some of the 80,000 supporters of the Paris and Marseille professional teams managed to smuggle forbidden items into the Stade de France, including smoke grenades, helmets and firecrackers, despite a 2-meter (6 1/2-foot) wall encircling the stadium and checkpoints for fans. Thirty people were arrested after police used tear gas.
“I was told that certain smoke bombs were smuggled inside sandwiches. Instead of putting a sausage, they stuck a smoke bomb inside the bread. If that means we need to open everyone’s sandwich, our task becomes particularly complicated,” said Jacques Lambert, the head of the organizing committee for the Euro 2016.
The safety of the 2.5 million spectators at the monthlong Euro competition beginning June 10 is emphasized by the rowdiness and the the magnitude of the job facing authorities to ensure the safety.
The Euro 2016 has expanded this year to 24 countries from 16 four years ago amd the tournament is the second-biggest in soccer, after the World Cup. National teams will play 51 matches in 10 cities around France.
Including 13,000 private contractors, about 90,000 security personnel will be deployed, the Interior Ministry said. Focusing on transport infrastructure, the games would be protected by some of the 10,000 soldiers who have been guarding key sites since last year’s attacks.
Overall safety for the tournament is entrusted with the French state and local authorities. While France will spend millions to guarantee the security of stadiums, training centers and hotels, 34 million euros ($38 million) is being spent by European soccer’s governing body, UEFA, which organizes the competition. Paris’s bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics could be affected by how well France succeeds in safeguarding the games.
Shooting at diners in cafes, attacking a concert hall and detonating bombs at the Stade de France outside Paris during a match between France and Germany had left 130 people dead in and around the capital Nov. 13 and France is still in a state of emergency imposed after terrorist attacks.
The French president wields extraordinary powers to uphold law and order as camouflage-clad soldiers wielding automatic weapons are a common sight around central Paris, its train stations and tourist attractions such as the Eiffel Tower.
Meanwhile Belgian prosecutors said that a computer owned by a suspect in the March terrorist attacks in Brussels showed that the plotters were considering targeting the Euro tournament.
The security challenge extends beyond the stadiums.
The official “fan zones”, areas that are accessible for free where the games will be shown on gigantic screens, will see millions of supporters gathering in 10 cities. Champ de Mars, which will host as many as 92,000 people and situated at the foot of the Eiffel tower is the largest of them.
With systematic body searches, metal detectors and video surveillance, the interior ministry decided to turn the zones into closed spaces after the November attacks. It doubled the security budget for the zones to 24 million euros, the government said last month.
(Adapted from Bloomberg.com)