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Europe

Safety a big concern for Euro 2016

Authorities in France and neighboring countries are working hard to keep fans and athletes safe, but the US has issued a travel warning for Europe. Germany, for its part, will institute additional security controls.

Paris, November 13, 2015. Before gunmen fired shots at people enjoying their Friday night out at restaurants and bars, and before a suicide bomber blew himself up at another eatery and before three men with assault rifles stormed the Bataclan concert hall and fired indiscriminately into the crowd, the first attack of that horrible night took place at the gates of the Stade de France during a soccer game.

France was playing Germany in a friendly match when three men wearing explosive vests blew themselves up outside the venue. The first suicide bomber detonated his explosives close to one of the stadium's gates, after a routine security check revealed his vest and prevented his entry. The other two attackers at the Stade de France did not make it into the venue, either, but one passer-by was killed. In total, 130 people died in the Paris terrorist attacks.

That begs the question of how safe the upcoming soccer European Championship will be. The tournament takes place in France from June 10 to July 10. During that time, security personnel will be on high alert - not just in France, but also in other European countries, like Germany.

More safety controls in Germany

Fans in German soccer jerseys watching a game outside on a big screen, seen from behind. (Photo: imago/Geisser)

Germans like to watch soccer in a crowd

Officials at the US State Department seem to think that all of Europe will be one giant risk zone this summer. They

issued a travel warning

on Tuesday, "alerting US citizens to the risk of potential terrorist attacks throughout Europe, targeting major events, tourist sites, restaurants, commercial centers and transportation."

It's emphasized in the warning that not just the Euro 2016 stadiums are at risk, but also fan zones and other "entertainment venues broadcasting" the games. In Germany, that means pretty much every bar and beer garden that has a television. Lots of restaurants and, in some places, even city governments, will set up big screens outside to attract even more soccer fans. Making these "public viewings," as they're called in German, completely safe is next to impossible.

Jörg Trauboth, a former colonel with the German Air Force and now a private security consultant, still believes that Germans watching Euro 2016 games with a crowd will be relatively safe.

"Authorities in Germany are well prepared," the terrorism expert told internet news site web.de. "You should look forward to the games and think positive. I believe the chances of becoming the victim of a terrorist attack are very small."

To provide security on a bigger scale, Germany's federal police announced on Wednesday that they'll institute security checks on the borders with France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Travelers will have to expect controls on highways and must carry valid IDs at all times, public broadcaster "Deutschlandfunk" said, quoting a police spokesman. According to him, the measure is not directed at terrorists, but at violent soccer fans.

Paris stadium failed security test

A test of sorts at the Stade de France in mid-May showed that security at the site of the Euro Cup's opening and final games still has to be improved. Fans were able to bring prohibited items like smoke-bombs into the stadium for the finale of the French Cup on May 21.

"This shows that the personal searches didn't work as they were supposed to," Philippe Galli, the prefect of the district the Stade de France is in, told French radio station Europe 1.

Stade de France from the outside. (Photo: DW/E. Servettaz)

Getting ready for 2016 - no one who hasn't been thoroughly searched will be able to get this close to the Stade de France

Security around the stadium is organized in a three-tiered system. In a first check, police are supposed to prevent anyone from bringing weapons or explosives to the games. Closer to the stadium there are two more control stops manned by private security personnel, where each fan is checked and patted down.

'Danger is greater outside the stadium'

Some experts say precautions around the stadiums are probably good enough to keep terrorists away, but that fans celebrating elsewhere might not be as well protected.

"Terrorists will likely avoid huge events with lots of security," terrorism expert Jörg Trauboth said. "The danger is greater outside the stadiums than inside."

Focusing on the Stade de France, Galli said he was optimistic that the security issues would be solved before the start of Euro 2016.

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