Olympic opening could be moved from river to stadium

With war raging in Ukraine and Gaza, the ceremony is under security threat

AFP April 15, 2024


French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday for the first time the Paris Olympics' opening ceremony could move from the river Seine to the national stadium in the event of a security threat.

Macron said instead of teams sailing down the Seine on barges, the ceremony could be "limited to the Trocadero" building across the river from the Eiffel Tower or "even moved to the Stade de France".

The Paris organisers have devised a ceremony that is unprecedented in Olympic history as it breaks from the tradition of the Games opening in the main stadium.

It is planned to feature teams parading down the Seine in more than 100 barges, before gathering at the Trocadero for a ceremony.

But with war raging in Ukraine and in Gaza, the ceremony also leaves teams potentially vulnerable to attack -- French authorities have, for example, mentioned the possibility of an attack launched by drones.

So far, organisers have denied the ceremony on July 26 could be moved to a different venue if authorities believe there is a possibility it will be targeted.

"This opening ceremony... is a world first. We can do it and we are going to do it," Macron said in an interview with BFMTV and RMC.

But, he added, "there are Plan Bs and Plan Cs", including moving the ceremony to the Stade de France to the north of Paris, the main stadium for the Olympics where the rugby sevens and athletics will be held.

Having the ceremony in the main stadium "is what happens traditionally", Macron said.

"We will analyse this in real time," Macron added.

Moving the ceremony from the Seine would be a huge undertaking and would deprive the Paris Olympics of their defining image.

More than 300,000 spectators are expected to be present for the ceremony, with another 200,000 watching from buildings along the Seine.

So far, all countries have said they plan to take part in the open-air river parade, including the most risk-averse such as the United States and Israel.

"We have anticipated, we have put in place a security cordon which is going to be very big, where we are going to check all the people coming in and going out."

Macron also said he would do "everything possible" to have an Olympic truce during the Games.

The truce is an historic tradition that peace reigns during the Olympics.


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