Paris knife attack puts question mark on Olympics bid

04 Feb 2017


On a day Paris Olympic bid leaders wanted to show off the French capital, a knife attack on a soldier raised more security questions about the city's ability to stage the 2024 Games in a safe atmosphere.

News of the attack outside the Louvre Museum on Friday broke hours before bid officials hosted a ceremony near the Eiffel Tower to coincide with the final submission of their 110-page dossier to the International Olympic Committee.

Despite the joyful atmosphere at the Musee de l'Homme, the morning assault, the latest in a wave of attacks that has left more than 200 people dead in the country over the past two years, again highlighted the threat hanging over the country.

In an interview with The Associated Press, a member of French parliament who wrote a report on the fight against terror warned that France will likely be targeted again.

"We are facing a persistent threat, and instability will last for at least one generation,'' Sebastien Pietrasanta said.

Bid officials, however, claim Paris has the experience to organize and protect major events, often citing soccer's European Championship last year as an example despite troubles caused by hooligans in Marseille and a deadly truck attack in Nice that killed 86 people four days after the tournament final.

"This morning's incident highlighted our security forces' ability to react very quickly,'' Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said at the bid presentation.

Speaking outside the Louvre after the attack, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who later attended the ceremony alongside athletes and other bid leaders, said all major cities around the globe are under threat.

"In a context of a terror threat hanging over all big cities in the world, we witnessed the efficiency and the relevance of the security measures put in place in Paris,'' Hidalgo said.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach was reassuring during a visit to Paris last year, saying France showed it can deal with security challenges during Euro 2016.

Aimed at touching a global audience, most of the presentation was made in English, and bid co-leader Tony Estanguet insisted Paris' vision for the Olympics was made of "passion and purpose.''

The climax of the presentation was a light show on the Eiffel Tower. The new slogan for the bid, "Made for Sharing,'' was projected on the tower, which was illuminated in blue, white and red.

Paris, which staged the Olympics in 1924, is competing against Budapest and Los Angeles. An IOC evaluation commission will visit Paris from 14-16 May. The IOC will choose the host city in September.

With existing infrastructure at the heart of their project, leaders of the Paris bid are promising limited spending and long-lasting benefits. The infrastructure budget for the games is expected to total €3 billion ($3.2 billion), with operational costs of €3.2 billion euros ($3.4 billion), and Paris bid documents state that 50 percent of tickets for the Olympics will cost less than 50 ($54).

More than 70 per cent of the venues exist, with a further 25 per cent being temporary structures. The main construction requirements for the bid include an aquatics center close to the Stade de France.

In an apparent jibe at Donald Trump's tough stance on immigration, Cazeneuve concluded his speech by praising the open-minded and tolerant ideal of the Paris bid.

"In France, from now and all the way until 2024, we shall actively open our arms to build friendship. We want to build bridges, not walls,'' Cazeneuve said.

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