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Paris seems ready for its Games, despite the risks

Photo: Christophe Simon archives Agence France-Presse Même si le ministre de l’Intérieur, Gérald Darmanin, a annoncé que 30 000 policiers seront mobilisés, la sécurité demeure la grande angoisse des Jeux olympiques de Paris.

According to the Parisians, it will be hell. No need for a major investigation to know what these professional complainers anticipate when, in a little over five months, 10,000 athletes invade the French capital to compete in 32 disciplines and 329 events, ranging from swimming to breakdance via skateboarding.

But it is above all the 15 million spectators expected from July 26 to August 11 — and also from August 28 to September 8, for the Paralympic Games — which are causing the inhabitants of the capital to panic. Since 2021, the percentage of opinions favorable to this sporting event has fallen from 76% to 69%, falling to only 58%.

However, the predicted catastrophe does not seem to have materialized. We now know that the Olympic facilities, and particularly the athletes' village built on former industrial wasteland in Seine–Saint-Denis, will be delivered on time, from April. The Olympic Aquatic Center, the only new sports infrastructure built expressly for these Games (and which far exceeded the planned budget), will even be delivered a month in advance.

Transport delays

The only real delay concerns transportation. The new metro lines 15, 16 and 17, intended to serve the greater Paris region, will not be ready in time, contrary to the commitments made in 2018. The 17, connecting Charles-de-Gaulle airport by the CDG Express , has even been postponed until 2030. Only the extensions of line 14 and part of the RER E will be operational for the Games.

We understand why gigantic posters in the metro are already calling on Parisians to telework in order to allow the transport networks to breathe. Not to mention that you will need to have a QR code to circulate in certain sectors.

The president of the Île-de-France region, Valérie Pécresse, has decided to charge visitors. Instead of being free for Olympic ticket holders, as it was in Athens, Beijing and London, the metro ticket will cost them almost twice the normal price. It must be said that at four euros, with its 14 metro lines, 5 RER lines, 8 regional trains, 9 trams and 1,500 buses, the greater Paris region offers a network that does not exist anywhere else. Which did not prevent Libération from ironically talking about jumping from metro gates which could become a new… Olympic discipline!

Another cloud on the horizon, the RATP CGT union, which is engaged in salary negotiations, has filed a strike notice from February 5 to September 9. A normal means of pressure in this type of situation, says management, but additional stress five months before the Olympic Games.

The security risk

For a city that is used to major international events, these few delays do not really worry the organizers. However, the same is not true of security, which remains the great anxiety of these Games.

Even if the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, announced that 30,000 police officers will be mobilized, many questions remain, estimates Alain Bauer, professor of criminology at the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts. “These Games will take place at a time when we are witnessing an unprecedented accumulation of external conflicts (Ukraine, Sahel, Gaza) and internal tensions (social, health, security, agricultural)”, underlines the author of Thou shalt not kill (Fayard). “Threats which arise when the police are already exhausted by the multiplication of crises and their effects in terms of injuries or resignations. »

At the heart of this concern is the unprecedented opening ceremony on July 26, under the direction of director Thomas Jolly. It will take place not in a stadium, as has always been the case, but along the Seine. The athletes will parade on around a hundred barges on a six-kilometer journey, from the Grande Bibliothèque to the Eiffel Tower. A real “madness”, according to the former Paris police prefect Didier Lallement. We understand why it has since been replaced.

For Professor Bauer, this is nothing more and nothing less than a “useless gamble”. He compares those who had this “strange” idea to “amateur mountaineers who decide to conquer Everest for the first time by adding 30 kilos of weight to their feet and legs just to enter the record books.”

As recently as December 2, a radical Islamist committed a knife attack near the Bir-Hakeim bridge, a stone's throw from where the dignitaries' tribune will be located welcoming around a hundred heads of state and government ? In France in particular, Alain Bauer judges that the Islamist threat is very high. Especially since “microterrorism, which has nothing to do with the pseudo-lone wolf theory, knows how to use violence and the media to create terror without major murderous results.” “He no longer needs the hyperterrorism of September 11, Bataclan or Nice,” explains the professor.

But it’s not just terrorism. Skeptics recall that in 2022, on the sidelines of the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid, hundreds of fans were literally robbed by thugs as they left the Stade de France.

On July 26, there will be 12 kilometers of quays to be put under glass, not counting the riverside buildings. Far from the two million spectators mentioned at the beginning, the figure was reduced to 600,000, then very recently to 300,000. It is expected that 100,000 people will take their places on paid seats located on the lower quays of the Seine, while 200 000 will attend the ceremony on the overlooking platforms, where tickets will be free.

A plan B ?

In the fall, the former Minister of Sports David Douillet threw a wrench into the pond by declaring to La Tribune Dimanche that “ if the day before, the lights are crimson red regarding the risk of attack, we will need a plan B for the opening ceremony”. A statement confirmed in December by Emmanuel Macron himself, according to whom “there are obviously plans B, plans C”.

However, it was contradicted by none other than the president of the Paris Games organizing committee, Tony Estanguet, according to whom there is “no alternative” other than the Seine. Which did not prevent the Minister of Sports, Amélie Oudéa-Castera, from adding to RTL: “Obviously we have to have an alternative. » Who to believe ?

We know that 15,000 soldiers will also be mobilized to protect certain places. But according to Professor Alain Bauer, “the real problem is the lack of private security agents.” During the Games, between 17,000 and 22,000 will be needed each day. However, according to Le Monde, several thousand are still missing, even though the State has released 46 million euros since 2022 to ensure their training, which extends over 3 weeks and 106 hours of lessons. A campaign is underway to recruit retirees from the sector.

In London, in 2012, the company responsible for security agents was only able to provide 4,000 agents out of the 10,000 planned, which forced the military to be mobilized at the last minute. In Paris, we instead chose to focus on around forty different companies.

The optimists will recall that in London, precisely, everything went wonderfully well despite the catastrophic forecasts. Perhaps it will be the same in Paris. But it is not certain that this is enough to bring a smile back to the inveterate complainers who are the inhabitants of the French capital.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116