The French government has revealed that 23,000 police will be positioned at this summer’s Tour De France cycling event as part of a move to increase security amidst the threat of terrorism, while a force of more than 90,000 personnel will be deployed during Uefa Euro 2016, which also takes place in the country this year.
French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has said the Tour de France security presence will include personnel from the GIGN unit of the French police, which specialises in counter-terrorism, hostage rescue, protecting government officials and tackling organised crime.
Cazeneuve, according to the Associated Press news agency, said the GIGN will be “ready to intervene at any moment if needed” as the threat of terrorism in France remains “very high”. He has agreed the revised security plan with Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme. Cazeneuve said the GIGN has been instructed to “follow the Tour de France through to the end of the event and stand ready to intervene at any moment if it proves necessary.”
Prudhomme added: “Security is our priority – I might say the Tour de France organisers’ No. 1 priority. Security of the participants, security of the fans along the roads.” This year’s Tour de France runs from July 2-24.
Meanwhile, Cazeneuve also outlined the latest security plans for France’s hosting of the European Championship national team football tournament this summer.
A force of approximately 77,000 police, gendarmes and riot control officers will join 13,000 private security agents and 1,000 volunteers during the event, which will run from June 10 to July 10. Soldiers already positioned across the country in the wake of November’s terrorist attacks in Paris will also be granted more responsibility to protect sites.
“Such a unique event in exceptional circumstances requires extra security measures,” Cazeneuve said, according to the Reuters news agency.
Confirmation of the heightened security presence comes after criticism following events at the final of the Coupe de France domestic cup competition on Saturday. The game at the Stade de France, one of the venues targeted during the November attacks, had been deemed a high-risk event and was the first major test for organisers ahead of Euro 2016.
However, supporters threw firecrackers and flares inside the stadium, while a number of banned objects were also brought into the venue, despite security searches upon entry, and organisers reported overcrowding. In response, Cazeneuve said earlier this week that the problems would be resolved ahead of this summer’s national team tournament.
Cazeneuve also hit out at suggestions that fan zones be scrapped during the competition due to the threat of terrorism. Security experts and police have highlighted the zones as areas that may cause problems.
Cazeneuve said: “I hear critics saying these fan zones should have been abandoned, but then how would we ensure security for supporters in public spaces spread out everywhere? These fan zones will be maintained with an adapted and stringent security protocol.”
The increased security presence is the latest move by the country to ease fears of terrorism at sporting events this summer. Last week, France’s parliament extended a national state of emergency that has been in place since the Paris terrorist attacks in order to cover the Tour de France and Euro 2016.