PARIS (Reuters) – The organizers of the Euro 2016 soccer championship fully realize the security challenges in holding the tournament, but are not aware of any precise threat, their head said on Wednesday.
More than 90,000 police, soldiers and private security agents will be deployed across France to ensure safety for the June 10-July 10 competition.
The tournament opens on Friday with a state of emergency still in force after Islamist attacks last November that killed 130 people in Paris at sites across the capital, including the Stade de France stadium where the opening game and the final will be held.
“As organizers, we are not aware of any precise, concrete threat targeting a game or a stadium in particular,” organizing committee president Jacques Lambert told a news conference.
“Nobody can ignore what has happened in France and Europe in terms of security over the last few months and we have taken it fully into account”, he added.
“Our main aim has been to make sure we could offer the best possible tournament given the circumstances in every aspect, and that includes security.”
About 2.5 million spectators are expected for 51 soccer matches involving 24 teams in games played at 10 stadiums across France. There will also be “fan zones” for crowds watching games on giant screens in major cities.
Citing potential “terrorist” attacks and acts of hooliganism as the main threats, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said some 77,000 police, gendarmes and riot control officers would be deployed alongside 13,000 private security agents and 1,000 volunteers.
A portion of the 10,000 soldiers already stationed across cities as part of anti-terrorism measures will be handed more responsibility to protect sites.
Social unrest, with strikes and violence-marred demonstrations against a labor reform law, add to the challenges for stretched security forces.
Lambert said a double security perimeter would be in place around every official venue and fan zone with two successive security checks for the supporters, who have been asked to come to the stadiums early.
Security experts and police officials have said protecting the fan zones, where some 8 million people are expected over the period, will be the biggest challenge.
“A week after the November attacks, we met with government and city officials to talk about the fan zones and we all agreed it was safer to maintain them rather than to have the fans gathering at other public places with no security”, Lambert said.
(Reporting by Patrick Vignal; Editing by Richard Balmforth)