Euro 2016 fan zones in spotlight as France finalises huge security operation

Posted On June 7, 2016 By In Sports, Top Stories, World News


Fans were leaving Lyon’s football stadium after a mock Northern Ireland-Ukraine match, when two fake suicide-bombers pretended to blow themselves up in the crowd. Volunteers posing as fans played dead, dozens more were injured, and the crowd panicked and charged. Police rushed to secure the area while paramedics treated victims oozing fake blood.

This simulated disaster scene last week was one of at least 30 doomsday scenarios staged by police and emergency services across France in the run-up to the Euro 2016 football tournament, which begins on 10 June. As France prepares to host more than 2.5 million ticketholders and millions more fans across 10 cities in one of Europe’s biggest events, the government is planning the heaviest sports security operation in recent history.

Just over six months after the Paris terrorist attacks killed 130 people at restaurants, a rock concert and the national stadium, President François Hollande said terrorism remains the biggest threat to the event despite strikes and protests against his proposed new labour laws.

Possible disaster scenarios rehearsed over the past two months have ranged from suicide bombs, to a staged chemical and biological gas attack on revellers in a football fan zone, where over 1,000 police trainees in Nîmes played the part of supporters watching a match on a giant screen hit by a mysterious gas, and then caught in a stampeding crowd. Security services in gas masks and protective suits rehearsed decontamination.

“We are doing everything to avoid a terrorist attack, and we’re preparing to react to one,” the interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, said. But the exact nature of any risk to the Euro tournament, other than the general terrorist threat that still weighs on France, remains unclear. The country suffered three major attacks last year – before the November atrocities came January’s attacks on Charlie Hebdo magazine and a kosher grocery store.

Officials say there is an ongoing general threat to France — which is seen by its head of internal intelligence as the country most under target from jihadi terrorism — but there are no known specific plans to target the Euro 2016 event itself. The tournament is taking place under “a very high level of threat and yet no precise project has been detected,” Michel Delpuech, the prefect in charge of policing in Lyon, said during one of the disaster practice runs.

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