- France has suffered a horrid 16 months, with two brazen terrorist attacks plunging it into a prolonged state of emergency and possible terrorism eyed in the crash of an EgyptAir jet that took off from Paris.But in just three weeks’ time, the country will host one of world’s biggest sporting events.
Some 2.5 million fans — most of them foreigners — will pack into stadiums across the country for the Euro 2016 soccer tournament. Essentially a pared-down World Cup, it features 24 teams from across the continent.
- But with preparations in the final stages, France’s spy chief warned that ISIS is plotting more misery on the country’s soil.
“We know that [ISIS] is planning more attacks … and that France is clearly a target,” Patrick Calvar, head of the DGSI intelligence agency, told the French parliament’s defense committee on Thursday.
He did not mention Euro 2016 by name, but said security services “may be coming face to face with a new type of attack — a terrorist campaign characterized by planting explosive devices where large crowds are gathered … to create as much panic as possible.”
He added: “The question, when it comes to the threat, is not ‘if,’ but ‘when’ and ‘where.'”
France remains entrenched in an official state of emergency, with security services performing thousands of raids and making hundreds of arrests across the country.
Despite such fears and warnings, authorities have refused to postpone or relocate the tournament — which will feature games in 10 cities.
Euro 2016 will see some of the most intense security measures ever conceived for any event of its size.
However, organizers are palpably aware that they cannot guarantee fans’ safety.
“We are doing our best to make sure everything is done [properly] and nothing is left to chance,” Ziad Khoury, head of security for the Euro 2016 tournament, told NBC News in a telephone interview this week. “But when you speak about security you cannot be serious and say that you are on 100 percent probability. It’s impossible. Even now, I’m talking to you, something could happen in my building.”
- Khoury said last year’s Paris attacks have had a marked effect on planning for the the event. There will be an 8 percent increase in the number of private security contractors, bring the total to between 650 and 1,300 at every game.This year will also be the first major event where anti-drone technology will be deployed across the 10 stadiums involved, according to Khoury. He said that any device that flies within several designated no-fly zones will in effect be hacked into by security officials and flown to a safe area.
“If you compare these Euros to the last one in France — the last one was in 1984 — there were no social networks, no cybercrime, no drones etc.,” said Khoury, whose country also hosted the World Cup in 1998. “So that’s why we have worked on all the scenarios, and drones are one of them.”
While the number of reinforcements has increased, Khoury said his team’s overall strategy has remained the same.
“Terrorism is not a new phenomenon. Of course it has taken a new shape with 2015, but before there were threats or even terrorist attacks,” he said.
An attack by Palestinian gunmen at the 1972 Munich Olympics left 11 Israelis, five Palestinians and a German police officer dead. A bombing at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, which killed one person and injured 11 others. Read More