• Olympics & Paralympics

Security, Transport Concerns Persist 6 Months Out from Paris Olympics

Reuters
French President Emmanuel Macron, right, shakes hands with a judoka at an athlete training facility in Paris on Tuesday.

PARIS — With the countdown to the Paris Olympics reaching the six-month mark, French President Emmanuel Macron is stepping up efforts to erase concerns over security, public transportation and other issues swirling around the hosting of the sports extravaganza.

Macron addressed the challenge of ensuring security at the Games during a speech to athletes and Olympic officials in Paris on Tuesday, saying the terrorist threat is always there.

Macron said that plans call for 30,000 police and military police officers from around France to be deployed during the Olympics. Such a step reflects the findings of a range of public opinion polls that show security during the Games remains a concern among many people.

Riots erupted in cities across France last summer as young immigrants’ frustrations with society boiled over. Since the start of the war between Israel and the Islamist group Hamas in October, there has been a spate of murders and assaults committed by men with Islamic extremist leanings, including an incident near the Eiffel Tower in central Paris. Such attacks have quickly heightened fears of terrorism.

The largest security challenge will be the opening ceremony, which will be attended by many global dignitaries. The ceremony will take place on the Seine River, and observers have pointed out the difficulty of ensuring security along roads that stretch for a total of 12 kilometers on the river’s banks, which are lined with historical buildings including the Louvre Museum.

Construction delays

The state of Paris’ public transportation network is another source of concern. During the Olympics, the Metro and other systems will need to operate at 15% higher capacity than normal. However, improvements to railways and roads that link central Paris with Olympic venues in the suburbs have fallen behind schedule.

During his address, Macron insisted that all spectators will be able to reach every venue by public transportation. He also indicated that greater efforts would be made to provide information about transport services.

However, a survey released by Odoxa on Jan. 7 showed that the most common point of concern during the Olympics was public transportation, which was cited by 74% of respondents.