Maximum security for the Olympic Torch route in France

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Security seems to be a serious issue in France, and even the Olympic torch, a symbol of Olympism, will have a special security operation with 100 police officers and agents dedicated to the task, as announced by the French Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin.

It has emerged in recent hours that the Olympic torch will be protected by 100 police officers and gendarmes in a “security “bubble” as it travels across France ahead of the opening of the 33rd Olympic Games of the modern era. 

The French Interior Minister, Gérald Darmanin, said: “One hundred police officers and agents will accompany it,” including members of the GIGN, the elite unit of the local gendarmerie, Darmanin commented at a press conference. 

Within this security bubble, 18 police officers and gendarmes dressed as civilians will ensure the safety of the person running the relay between Marseille and Paris, providing close protection for both the person and the torch. 

As far as the security of the relays is concerned, it has been revealed that a mobile force of 100 agents will be stationed at the front and back of the convoy and will also be responsible for combating “any form of public disorder” that may occur, according to the 41-year-old minister.

The main risk of disruption comes from “far-left” environmental groups. “At the moment there are no plans from the far right,” he added,” the minister said. The torch relay is due to start in Marseille, almost 800 kilometres south of the capital, on 8 May and will end in Paris on 26 July, the opening day of the Games, after an 80-day journey. 

Along the way, the Olympic flame will visit 100 iconic sites, more than 400 localities and five overseas territories, with 65 stops along the way. The flame will be carried within a “security bubble” of 100 mobile security forces, including motorcycle teams, rapid response units, anti-drone specialists, and anti-terrorism police, as detailed according to the Home Office press release. 

The security costs for the torch will amount to one million euros, the minister himself confirmed. For the arrival of the torch in France, especially on the Mediterranean coast of Marseille, around 5,000 police officers and gendarmes were mobilised to contain an estimated 150,000 people.

On the other hand, Minister Darmanin confirmed that the French security forces had assessed around 12,000 people registered as torchbearers and had rejected 13 people selected to take part in the torch relay because of their criminal backgrounds, some linked to drug trafficking and one suspected of belonging to an Islamist group. 

“The evaluation process has been carried out and has resulted in 13 notices of incompatibility, which is a very low rate of 0.10 per cent,” Darmanin reassured to journalists at the press conference.

The minister, from the Renaissance political party, stressed that 10 were individuals with “extensive criminal records, mainly for drug-related offenses,” while three were has been rejected by the intelligence services because of “radical Islamism, foreign interference, or links to the Russo-Ukrainian conflict.” 

The rejections “underline the effectiveness of the vetting process and perhaps the plans of some individuals to disrupt the torch relay from within,” he said. 

He also said that security forces are on constant alert for possible terrorist threats, but remain primarily concerned about the risk of environmental groups trying to use the event for publicity purposes.

With regard to terrorist groups and the security of the European Union’s second largest economy, the Senate bill to strengthen the fight against terrorism began its examination yesterday in response to the still very high terrorist threat. 

Since he took office as Interior Minister in 2020, 12 Islamist plots and six linked to the extreme right and left were foiled. It should be made clear that the figures given by the Minister at yesterday’s congress are general and not necessarily related to the Olympic Games.

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