France braces for big Bastille Day, World Cup final weekend

Security has been tightened ahead of a weekend that France hopes will bring back-to-back celebrations of Bastille Day on July 14 and a victory in the 2018 World Cup final, with 110,000 members of the security services deployed across France.

At a press conference Thursday, Paris Police Chief Michel Delpuech said 12,000 officers and 3,000 rescue workers will be mobilised in Paris and its suburbs for France’s national day on Saturday and on Sunday, when France meets Croatiafor the World Cup final match in Moscow.

Around 110,000 law enforcement officers will be deployed across France, Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said Friday.

“Everything is being done so the French can live these festive moments with peace of mind, despite the terrorist threat which remains at a high level,” Collomb said at a press conference.

The traditional Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Élysées will be followed the next day by public viewings of the World Cup, including at a massive fan zone around the Champ de Mars Park near the iconic Eiffel Tower.Around 4,000 police officers will be deployed around the Champ de Mars Park, where an expected 90,000 fans will gather to watch the match on giant screens.

The measures come exactly two years after a truck, driven by an Islamic State (IS) group sympathiser, rammed into a crowd watching the July 14 celebrations in the southern French city of Nice, killing 86 people. Paris has also experienced a number of attacks as well as foiled bomb plots following the January 2015 “Charlie Hebdo attacks”.

“Let’s never lose sight of the fact that we’re living in a context of very real terror threats. Our goal is to ensure that these events take place without any problem,” said Delpuech.

Security measures at public World Cup viewing sites would mirror those put in place during the 2016 UEFA Euro tournament, which France hosted months after the deadly November 13, 2015, Paris attacks.

Monitoring access points

The French interior ministry has given clear instructions to town and city authorities: open air broadcasts of the match may only take place in areas where entry points can be heavily monitored.

In the eastern French city of Lyon, up to 20,000 football fans are expected on the famous Place Bellecour, which will be completely sealed off for the match. Vehicles will be prohibited around the site with anti-vehicle blocks set up at each entrance.

They are familiar measures in a country that has been exposed to terror threats. “There’s no such thing as zero risk,” said a Lyon resident. “But I think the authorities know what they’re doing, and will do whatever’s necessary.”

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