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Paris issues warning to tourists as city backtracks on Olympics plan

Simon Calder’s Travel

Tourists heading to Paris around the time of the Olympics have been warned of a major change for the opening ceremony.

Those in Paris now won’t be allowed to watch the opening ceremony for free as initially promised, the French government announced on Tuesday.

Organisers had planned a grandiose opening ceremony July 26 for as many as 600,000 people, most watching free of charge from riverbanks. But security and logistical concerns — and an outcry from booksellers along the city’s picturesque quays — have led the government to progressively scale back ambitions.

Last month, the overall number of spectators was reduced to around 300,000. On Tuesday, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said that 104,000 of them will be paying ticket holders with spots along the lower riverbanks, with another 222,000 watching for free from the upper banks.

But he said that the free tickets would no longer be available to the public, and will be invitation-only instead.

“To manage crowd movement, we can’t tell everyone to come,” Darmanin said. “For security reasons that everyone understands, notably the terrorist threat of recent weeks, we are obliged to make it free but contained.”

Visitors walk past a bookseller of used and antiquarian books called “Bouquiniste”, in Paris


Two Interior Ministry officials said the decision means that tourists won’t be able to sign up for free access as earlier envisaged. Instead, access to the ceremony will be allocated via quotas to select residents of towns hosting Olympic events, local sports federations and others chosen by organizers or their partners. The officials weren’t authorized to be publicly named according to ministry policy.

Local town councils can invite “their employees, kids from local soccer clubs and their parents,” for example, Darmanin said. Those invited will then need to undergo security checks and will receive QR codes to pass security barriers.

With France on high alert, Darmanin said that intelligence services haven’t identified a specific plot targeting the Olympics. But he said that there are multiple potential threats, including from Islamic extremist groups, violent environmental activists and ultra-right groups, as well as cyberattacks from Russia or other adversaries.

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