Paris preparing for terror attack as ‘exhausted’ French police fear chaos

Paris preparing for terror attack as ‘exhausted’ French police fear chaos

The Paris 2024 Olympics are just months away, but the sense of excitement is overshadowed by growing concerns over security.

With recent terror threats, cyberattacks, and rising fears about drone strikes, French authorities are scrambling to secure the event, raising questions about their readiness.

French President Emmanuel Macron had envisioned a grand opening ceremony along the banks of the River Seine, promising a “moment of beauty, art, celebration of sports and our values”.

However, security risks have forced officials to reconsider this plan, suggesting a possible shift to the Stade de France, which also hosts track and field events.

The Seine, winding through the heart of Paris, poses significant security challenges, particularly from drone attacks and snipers. The threat of Islamic State-linked groups and Russian-backed cyberattacks has heightened the sense of urgency.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin acknowledged that authorities are foiling terror attacks “every month” and pledged that security services would be ready for the Olympics, which are expected to attract 13 million visitors to Paris.

Despite measures to reduce the risk, French police and security agencies are feeling the pressure. Recent security incidents, including the theft of laptops containing information about Olympic security, have sparked concerns about coordinated attacks. Additionally, the shooting in Moscow has raised fears about copycat attacks during the Games.

Police officials involved in securing the Olympics express their exhaustion, with some describing their situation as “really preoccupied.” Gérard Lacroix, deputy general for security at the French Defence Industry Association (GICAT), criticised the government’s handling of security preparations, noting that GICAT’s recommendations for anti-drone detection technology and crowd control measures were not fully implemented. He lamented that “now it is too late, we cross our fingers”.

The French government has taken controversial steps to address security concerns. The French parliament approved a bill allowing the experimental use of large-scale, real-time camera systems supported by algorithms to detect suspicious behaviour. This move, a first in Europe, could clash with the EU’s new AI rulebook, raising concerns about privacy and surveillance.

The French interior ministry has maintained that it is prepared for the event, deploying 22,000 private security agents and 45,000 military and police forces to secure the Olympics. However, police unions warn that officers are overworked and exhausted, raising the spectre of increased sick leave or other forms of protest during the Games.

France’s cybersecurity agency (ANSSI) is also on high alert, preparing for potential cyberattacks. The agency aims to protect critical infrastructure and has been raising awareness “on a massive scale”.

Given the disruptions caused by malware during the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, ANSSI director Vincent Strubel emphasised the importance of raising the security level to counter cyber threats.

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