The Olympic Games in the heart of Paris promise to be a world event in a dream setting – but at the same time there are concerns about security and the fear of possible attacks in terror-plagued France.

These concerns have now become even more concrete after the devastating attack near Moscow and President Emmanuel Macron’s admission that the Islamic State (IS) terrorist militia group, which was probably responsible for the massacre in Russia, had planned several attacks in France in recent months. As a precaution, France has declared the highest terror alert level. Given this background, how safe are the games starting in four months with an expected audience of millions?

Thousands are supposed to protect games

The French police, gendarmerie and intelligence services are ready to ensure the security of the games, emphasized France’s Interior Minister Gérard Darmanin. France is particularly threatened, especially during the Olympic Games, because it represents universal values, said the minister. It had already been announced earlier that up to 45,000 security forces would protect the games in Paris, and around 30,000 police officers would be relocated from the province to the capital region.

Terrorism had already come back into focus as a real danger in France in the autumn. A radicalized Islamist stabbed a teacher in a northern school and expressed his hatred of France, the French and democracy in an audio message. And security questions about the Olympics arose after an Islamist killed a German and injured two other people near the Eiffel Tower in early December.

The opening ceremony of the games is planned not far from the site of the attack, with huge crowds of spectators expected along the Seine in the open air. The Interior Minister has long since corrected their number downwards. It was said that around 300,000 people could watch the ceremony – fewer than originally planned.

Security concept in planning since 2019

The makers of the games emphasize the high priority that safety plays at the Olympics. As the International Olympic Committee (IOC) explained, local authorities have been aware for years that the highest security measures will be required. “On this basis and based on the regular reports that the IOC receives from them, we have full confidence in the French authorities and their close cooperation with their international partners,” the IOC said.

The local Paris Olympic organizers point out that in France, since the serious attacks in Paris in 2015, the terrorist threat has been systematically taken into account when designing security precautions. From 2019 onwards, security plans for the Olympics have been designed with the authorities taking this threat into account. “Our country is familiar with organizing events of great international importance. It has always faced this threat to ensure exemplary, festive and safe events even in extremely difficult circumstances,” said the Olympic organizing team.

Destabilization attempts expected

“The German Olympic Sports Confederation is preparing intensively for the Olympic Games in Paris in 2024,” says Frankfurt. By default, this also includes security preparations, which are always of particular importance in the context of the Olympics. The DOSB has long been working with the Federal Criminal Police Office, the Federal Police and the Foreign Office on the subject of security. Further seminars on safety issues are also scheduled for April with the Paris Olympic team.

Of a different caliber than the terror concern, but also a security aspect, is the question of cyber attacks and attempts at destabilization during the games, which is also a concern for the organizers. France recently accused Russia of helping to fuel the furore surrounding the spread of bed bugs last summer – via social media accounts. Especially in the run-up to the games, the fuss about the bedbugs was likely to unsettle international visitors in advance – although Paris hotels have long since had their rooms inspected and cleaned by specialist companies so that nothing crawls anywhere during the Olympics.

Police present defense weapon against drones

There was also speculation about the background to the theft of laptops belonging to two Olympic employees in Paris a few weeks ago, which contained security documents. Just a coincidence, many said. However, as a national security expert told the newspaper “JDD”, this is traditionally the work of secret services. Olympic employees responsible for security would have had to be specifically identified and their daily routines spied on in order to carry out the thefts. One goal could be to damage France’s reputation and raise concerns about attacks.

According to “JDD”, there was also some guesswork after the sighting of two drones over a military complex in Paris in September. The driver of the drones identified by the police posed as a Chinese tourist – possibly all harmless. In order to eliminate the threat of drones during the games, Interior Minister Darmanin has already presented an impressive defensive weapon that the police have at their disposal.