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Paris Olympics short of 8,000 security guards before opening ceremony

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, observing French fencing champion Sara Balzer and Minister of Culture of France Rachida Dati ahead of Paris Olympics
President Emmanuel Macron attends a demonstration by the French fencing team. He insisted the security zone will be 'the safest place in Paris' - YOAN VALAT/via REUTERS

The Paris Olympics requires 8,000 more security guards less than 100 days before the opening ceremony, prompting fears state gendarmes and police officers might be needed to plug shortfalls.

According to minutes from a French ministerial meeting on the Games leaked to Le Monde, some 1,400 additional security guards are still needed for the opening ceremony alone and only six of the 30 security contracts offered through public tenders have been handed out because of a lack of interest.

According to the minutes, ministers are concerned about the “scale of failings” regarding the private security arrangements for the games.

“The state cannot be satisfied with the extent of these shortcomings,” the minutes read.

Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, the country’s sports minister, said on Monday that while overall preparations were going very well, rating organisers “eight or eight and a half out to ten”, she did confirmed that there were 8,000 private security guard vacancies.

Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, the country's sports minister, acknowledged the security shortfall but said preparations were going well
Amélie Oudéa-Castéra, the country's sports minister, acknowledged the security shortfall but said preparations were going well - MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP

The document cites unawarded public contracts, lack of foresight and an absence of alternative solutions and recommends that the state take over operations from the organisers of the games in order to “secure the [July 26 opening] ceremony” because “security issues but also issues relating to the country’s reputation” are at stake.

If the recommendation is accepted, police and gendarmes will replace the private security guards initially responsible for managing the official sites of the event and, in particular, the six kilometres of the lower banks of the Seine set to be lined by 104,000 of the 326,000 spectators attending the opening parade.

Bruno le Ray, the security chief for Paris 2024, told Le Monde, said: “We didn’t manage to convince the companies for the ceremony and even though a fourth wave of invitations to tender was launched [on Nov 16 2023], most of the lots didn’t find takers.”

He added: “We need to put this subject into perspective. In every edition of the Games the state has provided private security, especially when requirements have been absolutely out of the ordinary. At this stage, nothing can be ruled out: the state will take on its responsibilities at some point, and this can only be done with the organisers.”

The opening ceremony is currently short 1,400 security personnel according to the documents
The opening ceremony is currently short 1,400 security personnel according to the documents - GARETH FULLER/PA

The Olympic organising committee will have to foot the bill for any extra police officers manning events.

Up to 35,000 police and gendarmes will be mobilised across Olympic sites each day – 45,000 at the opening ceremony, reinforced by up to 22,000 private security agents and 18,000 soldiers from Sentinel, France’s ongoing security operation, and boosted by military personnel from 46 other nations.

Inside the security zone will be “the safest place in Paris”, Emmanuel Macron insisted last week.

Ms Oudeá-Castéra remained optimistic about the security outlook, stating: “Our aim is to have 28,000 people entering training for 20,000 new recruits. Today, we have 18,000 people enrolled in training, a little more even now, for just under 12,000 new recruits. We still have several thousand to go, but the workload is there.”

The opening ceremony, the first not to be held in a stadium, will involve a flotilla of boats carrying members of national teams along the Seine through the heart of the city. Spectator places have already been halved for security reasons. Mr Macron said previously France had a “plan B and a plan C” if forced to cancel this open-air spectacle for security reasons.

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