Oui, the Paris Games will open with a parade of boats on the Seine, French officials say

Members of the elite police squad RAID sit in an inflatable boat during an operational test for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games opening ceremony, Monday, July 17, 2023, in Paris. The giant opening ceremony extravaganza that Paris is planning to hold on the River Seine to launch next year's Olympic Games could be moved if France is hit again in the run-up by extremist attacks, French President Emmanuel Macron said Dec. 21, 2023. The security, with tens of thousands of police and soldiers deployed, will be intense.

The opening ceremonies of the 2024 Summer Games in Paris are still going to be held on the Seine River despite heightened security concerns, French officials say, but the July 26 extravaganza featuring a flotilla of boats filled with Olympic athletes could be scaled back.

“We have the possibility to reduce the impact and the facilities of the opening ceremony if the international risk becomes harder,” Pierre Rabadan, the French capital’s deputy mayor in charge of sport, the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the Seine, told The Athletic Friday. “We can reduce it, the show, the number of people. But there is no Plan B.”

Paris’ first deputy mayor, Emmanuel Gregoire, also confirmed that while the ceremony would not be relocated, changes could be made.

“Of course, we talk about hypotheses,” Gregoire said, according to The Athletic. “We are focused on preparing the situation. We are doing our best to guarantee security with major, major measures.” Neither official spelled out what effect a smaller scale would have on plans for the athlete parade of nations to be held aboard boats sent down the Seine.

Their comments come as security threats continue to emerge. France, already on alert due to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine and its impact on the Olympics, as well as the Israel-Gaza war, bumped up its security to the highest level after last month’s terrorist attack on a concert hall in Moscow.

Even before that measure was taken, the French had reduced the number of spectators for the opening ceremonies by about half, to around 300,000 people, including 100,000 who paid for tickets. The free seats, once expected to be available to tourists, are earmarked for selected residents of Paris and other French cities hosting Olympic events, The Washington Post reported.

Paris organizers have promised “an Olympic ceremony like no other,” the first not held in a stadium. Instead, the Seine is described as the main stage for the kickoff event, with 10,500 athletes along with performers navigating a nearly four-mile stretch of the Seine in 160 boats to the Trocadero, gardens aligned with the Eiffel Tower.

French President Emmanuel Macron said last Thursday that the boat parade remains the “favored scenario” for the opening ceremonies but added that contingency plans were being worked on, according to France 24 news.

“We need to have confidence in ourselves,” Macron told reporters gathered for the opening of an Olympics aquatic center in Paris. “Yes, there are risks, but there are risks in life and the best way to avoid risks is to do nothing. I don’t think that’s the mission of the French nation.”

Up to the final second of the Games “we will be determined, vigilant and at work. We’ll succeed and it will make the country proud,” the French president said, acknowledging that what has been billed as a “Games Wide Open” is a target for cyberattacks by Russia.

“I have no doubt, including in the information space,” he said. “It is feeding every day the idea that we can’t do this or that, that there’s a risk.”

In December, Macron had warned the river portion of the opening ceremonies could be moved if the country were to be attacked by terrorists ahead of the Games, citing the deadly 2015 extremist attacks on a satirical newspaper and a kosher supermarket in Paris.

“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 told public broadcaster France 5 then, offering assurances that alternatives were already in place, The Associated Press reported.

“Since we are professional, there are obviously Plan Bs, Plan Cs, et cetera. You have to be prepared for everything,” the French president said during the television interview. “If there’s a surge of international or regional tensions, if there is a series of attacks ... that’s a Plan B.”