Paris Olympic plan B 'focuses on Trocadero ceremony'

Thousands of athletes are due to parade along the Seine but authorities have put alternative arrangements in place

Athletes will sail down the Seine in boats, breaking with the tradition of the Olympic opening ceremony being staged in a stadium. AFP
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French authorities have prepared a plan B for the Paris Olympicsopening ceremony, focused around the Trocadero, in the event of security concerns affecting the large open-air parade on the Seine.

Other options reportedly include placing only the flagbearers of each participating delegation on boats.

Thousands of athletes are due to take part in the procession on the river, which runs through the heart of the French capital, on July 26, marking the first time the event opener will not take place in a stadium.

About 10,500 athletes will cross the Seine on 160 boats to open the 16-day event, and 300,000 people are expected to cheer them on as they glide past the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Louvre.

Boats for each national delegation will be equipped with cameras, providing a close-up view of the action on TV and online.

The 6km parade route will end in front of the Trocadero, the elevated, open space with good views of the Eiffel Tower, where the final elements of the opening ceremony and celebratory shows will take place, according to organisers of the Olympics.

French security authorities are well aware how the open air set-up may leave athletes and crowds more exposed to potential attacks.

The number of those set to attend the opening ceremony has already been reduced from the original 600,000.

And now alternative plans for the opening ceremony have been drawn up to counter safety concerns for participants and the public, according to local reports.

Calls for an alternative were initially sparked after a German tourist was killed in a knife and hammer attack in an Olympic zone near the Eiffel Tower in early December. Two others were injured.

At the time, the government insisted there was no alternative plan for the large open air event.

But later in December, French President Emmanuel Macron said “plan Bs” would be in place to mark the start of the Olympics “in the event of a potential threat”.

"You're 15 days from the Olympic Games. You have a series of terrorist attacks. What do you do? Well, you don't organize [a ceremony] on the Seine," he said. "Since we are professional, there are obviously Plan B's, Plan C's, et cetera.

"You have to be prepared for everything," Macron added. "If there's a surge of international or regional tensions, if there is a series of attacks ... that's a Plan B."

Several meetings have taken place in recent weeks to prepare options, reported Le Parisien.

The option to place only the flagbearers of each delegation in the boats has reportedly been denied by officials.

The alternative plan to hold the event at the Trocadero could feature a light ceremony "as a last resort if we had to remove the athletes from the Seine,” one participant of planning meetings told Le Parisien.

"For the moment, that’s not the trend."

However, the owners of boats that will be used in the ceremony are convinced the original plans will go ahead.

“The organisation of the parade continues," one told the French newspaper. "In any case, no one is giving any sign that everything could stop."

France expects 15 million visitors during the Games. Mr Macron has warned he wants organisation to be "perfect".

The French capital is already among the top 10 most-visited cities in the world and close to 30 million tourists flocked to the city last year.

Open-air stalls along the Seine selling antique books and souvenirs have become victims of the plans to tighten security at the Games. The so-called bouquinistes, which have become a Paris landmark, have sued the city for compensation after it announced the temporary removal from mid-July of nearly half their stalls.

There are fears terrorists could use these stalls to shoot at the crowd or stash weapons during the opening ceremony.

France has been on high alert since a string of terrorist attacks in 2015 and 2016, including in the capital, where even the Stade de France – set to be a prominent venue for the Olympics – was hit by explosions.

The terror threat was described as “very high” last July, four months before tensions surged after the outbreak of the Israel-Gaza war.

Updated: February 07, 2024, 2:53 PM