Paris is committed to the safety of the 2024 Olympics

The security of public spaces is always a priority for authorities, and even more so when we’re talking about large gatherings like the Olympics. The taking of hostages in Munich in 1972 really left a mark on people’s memories. However, these days, danger not only targets athletes; protecting the crowds is also a priority. Indeed, the risks are multiplied: attacks, panic, stampedes, collisions, traffic jams…

Toward the privatization of security for the Olympics?

It’s the host city’s responsibility to guarantee the security of athletes and spectators as well as to ensure that the Olympics run smoothly. This is why the Minister of the Interior has named a National Coordinator to manage olympic security. This person will work in collaboration with the Paris Prefecture for deployment of security operations before and during the Olympics.

Nevertheless, a first look reveals that public servants will probably not be in sufficient supply for maintaining order. We estimate that between 20,000 and 25,000 private security agents will be needed to augment the national security force that will be mobilized for the event.

For example, during the Euro 2016, 13,000 agents had been deployed, which was the maximum available capacity in France. However, estimates for the 2024 Olympics are double. Indeed, there is more than a need for 25,000 agents to ensure the security of these sites. 

From 2016 to 2020: Olympic security in host countries

Security is a true concern for organizers, since it generates a significant cost. The budget allocated to the Olympic organization is 6 billion euros. The portion set aside for security is estimated to be 10% of this figure.

As Mr. Gilles Furigo, General Commissioner and Assistant National Coordinator of Security for the 2024 games, stated during breakfast at the HCFDC, in terms of preventative actions alone, for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, there were no fewer than:

  • 85,000 people mobilized for security with an overall budget of $220 million
    • 11,000 people whose entry was denied
    • 40 people suspected of being terrorists
    • 15 suspected of wanting to carry out attacks

Though very secretive about its planning, South Korea said it had invested $1.2 million in cybersecurity for the 2018 Winter Olympics. 

For the next Olympics in 2020, which will take place in Tokyo, new technologies are being relied upon, such as robotics and facial recognition for verifying the identity of people arriving at access points. Facial recognition systems were used in Russia for the FIFA World Cup, but its use is strictly regulated in France.

What are the difficulties in organizing the Olympics in Paris?

Besides the political challenges and expected economic impacts for 2024, the planning of this sporting event poses numerous other issues. Noise disturbances, bypasses related to roadwork and traffic congestion are all issues that can elicit public rejection.

Regarding the so-called “societal” challenges, (i.e. the capacity for acceptance on the part of the French public), longevity is the first barrier to the willingness to endure the hardships associated with the planning of the games. One example of this is the work that is required for the construction and rehabilitation of sports infrastructures. 

However, the main barrier is legislative. In order to quickly plan the construction of the infrastructure, use of the latest technologies or the requisition and placement of weapons and/or human elements, a legal framework must be provided which allows the supervision and protection of any initiative on the part of the authorities. Let’s also not forget that the specifications imposed on each host country were originally drafted on the basis of Anglo-Saxon law. It is therefore up to each host country to adapt things according to their own legislation.

Another example is the case of facial recognition, as already mentioned above. France could use such a system to ensure the security of the Olympics, but since the legal framework prohibits it in places other than airports, the text of the law would need changing. Thought must be given to this now, since changing a legal text requires a minimum of two years.

Technology has the ability introduce all sorts of logistical innovations, such as flow management software, for responding to security challenges. However, today, the speed of technological evolution introduces an additional challenge: how to anticipate the technologies that will exist in five years when we don’t even know how the market is evolving today? This is the challenge that Paris is about to face.

To read: Private security, armed guards: what has changed?