PARIS: There is no “plan B” for the opening ceremony of the Paris 2024 Olympic Summer Games, the French sports minister said on Monday, after a man armed with a knife and hammer killed a German tourist and left two people wounded near the Eiffel Tower on Saturday.
The 26-year-old suspect, a French national arrested after the attack, had pledged allegiance to Islamic State in a video recorded beforehand, anti-terrorism Prosecutor Jean-Francois Ricard said on Sunday.
The attack occurred on the Quai de Grenelle, a spot also included in the plans for the opening ceremony.
Asked if the government was mulling a change to its plan to hold the ceremony on the River Seine, with several hundred thousand spectators expected along its banks amid the security threats, the minister said: “This not something we’re working with.”
“We have the capacity to secure the event”, she said, adding that certain details, including the number of additional cultural events surrounding the main spectacle and said the security perimeter would be adjusted closer to the Games.
France has been on high alert since raising its security threshold in October, when a Chechen-origin man with a knife killed a teacher in a school in northern France.
European security officials have warned of a growing risk of attacks by Islamist militants amid the Israel-Hamas war, with the biggest threat likely from “lone wolf” assailants who are hard to track.
Some 160 boats will set off on July 26 from the Pont d’Austerlitz for a six-kilometre journey to the Pont d’Iena in an event Tony Estanguet, the head of the organizing committee, described as “unique and spectacular”.
“We’ve been working on it for the past 12 months, it’s the result of a collective effort with the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and all authorities. It has to be spectacular,” Estanguet told Reuters in an interview.
“It will be the first time people have free access to the opening ceremony, and not just in a stadium. It will also be a popular event.”
While the lower part of the river bank will be subject to ticketing, there will be free access to the upper part with spectators able to see holograms on the water, dancers on the roofs of nearby buildings and aerial shows.
Some 80 giant screens will also be installed along the route.
“The Games is a unique, once-in-a lifetime experience. We want people to feel it. (The boats) will pass along the iconic landmarks of Paris – Notre Dame, the Orsay and Louvre museums, the Pont Neuf (Paris’s oldest bridge), the Pont Alexandre III, the Grand Palais, the Eiffel Tower,” Estanguet added. (Int’l News Desk)