Olympics: Opening will be ‘iconic’, security fears notwithstanding

Henry

Thomas Bach, head of the International Olympic Committee, promises that the opening ceremony of the Paris Games on the Seine river will be “iconic and unforgettable”, despite growing concerns about safety at this open-air parade.

Bach told AFP on Friday that all authorities and organizers involved are professional and that he has no doubt that everyone – including the athletes – will be safe.

The ceremony, which takes place on July 26, has been described as “extremely ambitious”.

Instead of the traditional approach of holding a parade through the athletics stadium at the start of the Games, teams will sail on a flotilla on the Seine river. More than 500,000 spectators are expected to attend the ceremony.

However, safety concerns have given rise to speculation that this ceremony may have to be moved.

French President Emmanuel Macron said last week that it could move to the national stadium, the Stade de France, although local organizers have always maintained that this is not a possibility.

“Everyone is determined to hold this opening ceremony on the Seine river, while at the same time considering all possible scenarios,” explained Bach.

In addition to the opening ceremony, Bach hopes that the return of thousands of spectators to Paris will also help to “revive the Olympic spirit” after the Covid-19 pandemic significantly affected the last Games in Tokyo and athletes had to compete in empty stadiums.

Regarding the mood in France and criticism of the Games there, he said it was “partly due to global uncertainty”.

“It’s not just related to the Olympics. It is part of our zeitgeist, because we live in uncertain times. And there are people who are skeptical. Some are even afraid. Some are worried about their future.

“And under these circumstances you can understand certain questions and criticism from some quarters.”