Beyonce, World Cup fever and Bastille Day bash put French police on alert
By HELENE FOUQUET | Bloomberg | Published: July 13, 2018
Beyonce and Jay-Z are just two of the millions of people under a massive security umbrella in Paris this weekend that will peak with the World Cup final.
Some 110,000 police officers are deploying across the nation for Bastille Day celebrations on Saturday, when a military parade on the Champs-Elysees, fireworks at the Eiffel Tower and balls in many cities mark France's main national holiday. On the capital's outskirts, the two American superstars will perform at the 81,000-seat Stade de France soccer stadium.
On Sunday, soccer fans throughout France are rooting for the national team to take its first World Cup trophy in 20 years in the final against Croatia. If the French win, the team would return to Paris on Monday for a victory parade on the Champs-Elysees that would probably draw more than 1 million fans.
"We couldn't mobilize more forces than we will mobilize this weekend," French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb told reporters on Friday. "At this time, we will mobilize all of our forces."
Most of the biggest betting firms and exchanges in the U.K., Ireland and beyond are placing a 65 percent or better chance on France winning the World Cup.
About 12,000 police officers will be in action in Paris, from anti-riot units to plainclothes officers patrolling the streets of the capital. Military patrols, which have been protecting sensitive sites against terrorist attacks for several years, will be beefed up. Medics and 44,000 firefighters will be mobilized, too. Two Tour de France stages also are scheduled this weekend.
The capital's police chief said the celebrations will take place amid a "real terrorist threat." Parts of Paris will be closed to vehicles throughout the weekend and potentially on Monday. The Eiffel Tower is closed on Sunday for security reasons.
While France has been hit by a series of attacks in the last few years, only one happened at a celebration or a special event: on Bastille Day in 2016, an attacker in Nice ran down 84 people with a truck. That's kept security officials focused on the risk of having vehicles and large crowds in the same place.
Traffic will be limited especially on Monday if France wins the World Cup as authorities want to keep vehicles away from the celebrations. When France won its first trophy in 1998, people in cars flooded the Champs-Elysees, creating a security nightmare.
French forces will particularly seek to protect the "fan zones" where soccer supporters will gather on Sunday. In Paris, there's space for 90,000 fans at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. More than 230 fan areas are set up across France, from big cities such as Lyon and Bordeaux to smaller ones like Nantes and Angers, with each requiring security precautions.