In a special report, GFFN outlines the stresses and strains of EURO 2016 on a nation that has suffered a turbulent 12 months leading up to the major European football tournament.
Flooding, social unrest, strike action, threats of terrorism and coordinated hooligan attacks, the politics of the far-right egging on individuals like Eric Cantona to call Didier Deschamps a racist so that they can denounce the former Manchester United man to continue to strengthen their anti-migrant rhetoric, Karim Benzema’s exclusion, Mathieu Valbuena’s sextape, Mamadou Sakho’s doping saga, the suspension of the previous face of EURO 2016 from UEFA and FIFA, Michel Platini, and France’s recent injury crisis.
The last 8 months have certainly given the French people more than they would have bargained for in the run up to these European Championships, and all this with the horrendous November terrorist attacks in the back of our minds, many hearts have yet to heal and remain broken.
And yet despite all this, the show goes on, and it is estimated that 8 million fans will attend EURO 2016 in person whether that is at matches or through other official EURO 2016 events, including at fan zones, with 2.5 million people specifically attending matches.
The cities of Paris, Marseille, Lyon, Nice, Bordeaux, Lille, Saint-Denis, Saint Étienne and Toulouse are as ready as they will ever be to host the largest ever European championships in football history.
But speaking to the Journal du Dimanche, the current head of the French General Directorate for Internal Security, Patrick Calvar has admitted that being ready is one thing, being totally prepared for everything might be impossible:
“France is today the most threatened country in the world.”
A former anti-terror chief also weighed in with the JDD on Sunday, taking issue specifically with the decision to maintain fan zones for this tournament:
“It is crazy to have organised such a concentration of crowds, notably in Paris, in front of the Eiffel Tower, the ultimate symbol of liberty… We could not give them a better target!”
Just last week, the Head of Police in Paris pleaded with Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve to convince Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo to not keep the Paris Fan Zone open for certain matches, due to his own force being totally exhausted in terms of numbers and not being fully convinced that they can control the situation.
The Interior Minister’s response was to give the Paris Police Chief another three units and Cazeneuve has reacted to a more common worry about the security risks specifically concerning the fan zones:
“It is the host cities that wanted the fan zones in the first place… and then it makes more sense to control the assembly of the fans rather than to allow the erection of big screens randomly throughout the towns without any real surveillance… We are not ruling anything out at the same time. If we have even the slightest threat to one of these sites, we will take action… in such a case we would eventually close the fan zones.”
France’s main form of defence against hooliganism and terrorism will be through the deployment of security forces like the country has never seen before.
90,000 policemen, security forces and private agents will be deployed for EURO 2016.
The exact breakdown are as follows:
42,000 police officers
30,000 French armed forces
5,200 specialised forces (firemen, anti-bomb experts, paramedics)
10,000 Special Operation Vigipirate forces (anti-terrorist troops)
13,000 security forces recruited from the private sector
In Paris alone, Police Chief Michel Cadot has confirmed the presence of an additional 1200 military troops:
“We are going to reinforce our Paris force with 1200 additional military troops. The active presence of at least 80% of them will be guaranteed. We have also added fifteen odd until of mobile forces and, due to their recent graduation from academies, peacekeeping forces.”
At the Stade de France, there will also be pre-filtration points where preliminary checks of anyone entering the stadium will be carried out before every individual passes through a metal detector, whilst security officials check bags, much like at airports. This is a method that has been trialled already during test matches.
The interior minister also has to deal with increasing risk of strike action going ahead on the part of unions linked to the SNCF (French trains) and Air France, which is likely to disrupt travel plans for fans throughout the tournament.
On Tuesday 14th June a new national strike is planned against the controversial “Loi El Khomri” or “Loi Travail” which intends to revise France’s Labour Code with the intention of making the country’s labour market more flexible, which would allow for decreased unemployment, according to key individuals within Prime Minister Manuel Valls’s government.
The law has been met with widespread anger and strike action as it would make it easier for corporations to lay off workers and reduce overtime payments handed out to individuals who work beyond the statutory French 35-hour week.
Next week’s planned general strike is expect to cause more tense moments in Paris between protestors and the French riot police, commonly known as the CRS. Luckily for the Interior Minister, there is no EURO 2016 match taking place at either the Parc des Princes or at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis on that date.
In any case, the French government is preparing for every eventuality, with special units trained to combat potential chemical, nuclear, radiological and bacterial attacks being mobilised and deployed throughout the tournament.
France has prepared for everything, let’s hope it is enough…