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Sports

France goes all out to keep Euro 2016 safe

Euro 2016 is set to start in France with the threat of a terrorist attack on many people's minds. Although the authorities say they are doing everything they can to keep fans safe, there's no guarantees.

Just over six months after the coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people, France remains in a state of emergency and the government has spared no expense in its preparations for the 24-team tournament, which kicks off in Paris on June 10.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve recently unveiled the security measures being put in place, saying that a total of 90,000 police officers, soldiers, private security guards and first responders would be deployed for the 24-team tournament.

In his speech, Cazeneuve described the efforts to protect the 15th edition of the European championship as a "total mobilization of the state as well as the host cities and the organizers."

He also noted that the security forces have been doing their homework, having conducted dozens of exercises to prepare for any kind of possible attack.

However, things went wrong at the French cup final just a couple of days before his announcement, with some people managing to get into the stadium with things like plastic bars, broken bottles and smoke bombs.

Communication problems

Elie Tenenbaum, a terrorism expert at the Institut Francais des Relations Internationales (IFRI) told DW that the final had been widely seen as a test of the security measures being put in place for Euro 2016. He said the main problem appeared to have been difficulties in communication between the various security services.

"You have a lot of different actors for security. So if they can talk to each other, if they can coordinate with each other, they will be efficient. If they can't, either for bureaucratic, political or other reasons, it will go badly," he said.

Speaking to the sports magazine "L'Equipe," Cazeneuve seemed to play down the problems slightly, noting that there were significant differences between the cup final and Euro 2016 matches.

"They were not the same spectators, not the same organizers, nor the same security deployment," he said.

Frankreich Fußball Stade de France

The Stade de France was the target for last year's terror attacks in Paris

Security perimeters, anti-drone measures

During the tournament, a number of security perimeters are to be set up around the 10 stadiums, meaning that spectators will be checked more than once before actually getting into the venues. No-fly zones will also be declared over the stadiums and the 24 teams' training facilities.

The head of security for the Euro 2016 organizing committee recently told the Associated Press that they were even taking steps to guard against the use of drones around venues. Ziad Khoury said the plan was not to shoot down any drones but to "interfere with drones and take control of them if they are spotted." However, he did not go into detail about how this would be done.

Among the authorities' biggest concerns, though, are the "fan zones" that are to be set up all over the country, so that people can watch the games on big screens outdoors. An estimated eight million people are expected to travel to France for the tournament, but only 2.5 million have tickets for the games, meaning many more visitors could head to fan zones. Due to the security concerns, there were calls for them to be scrapped, however, Cazenueve defended the decision to go ahead with them, pointing out that people would be subject to security checks before entering.

The IFRI's Tenenbaum agreed that the fan zones could be the most at risk, but said that the tens of thousands of soldiers being deployed would be helpful in mitigating this.

Paris Eiffelturm Sicherheit Polizisten

France is welcoming international support in its Euro 2016 security campaign

Asked about the sort of attacks the French authorities needed to be prepared for, Tenenbaum said that these ranged from actions of "a lone wolf" to a well-planned and coordinated operation like the Paris attacks.

Ongoing threat

He also said that while threat of terror is ongoing in France, and the European Championship would be an alluring target, it was important to note that so far no intelligence has emerged of a specific threat to the tournament.

"I would say that they (visitors) wouldn't be more threatened by terrorism during the Euros than during any other travel to France," Tenenbaum said. However, he also pointed out that France, like Britain and Germany have seen a large number of Jihadists returning with the recent setbacks suffered by "Islamic State" in Syria and Iraq - "and they are coming back with ideas."