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Olympics-Paris 2024 Games a ‘considerable challenge’ for bomb disposal squad

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By Antonia Cimini

PARIS (Reuters) – The Paris police bomb disposal team expect the Olympics to present them with a “considerable challenge” next year.

They have been working with Paris 2024 organisers to define the right level of bomb clearing intervention during the Olympics and Paralympics in the French capital next summer, the director of the central police laboratory said on Monday.

“The Olympic Games are an absolutely considerable challenge,” Christophe Pezron said of the July 26-Aug. 11 event.

“As far as bomb-disposal practice is concerned, there are two stages which are quite separate for us from the site inspection stages, since each of the Olympic Games sites will be inspected before being handed over to the organisers.”

“We carried out an inspection, a kind of rehearsal, at the Stade de France during the Rugby World Cup. So the first stage is these inspections of all the Olympic Games sites.

“And the second activity, which will be carried out in parallel, is that we imagine that, given the population that will be moving around during the Olympic Games, we’re likely to be faced with an increase in the number of abandoned parcels and suspicious packages. So, from that point on, we’ll certainly be seeing a great deal of intervention activity.”

On Monday, members of the bomb disposal squad were alerted at the Montparnasse train station to abandoned luggage, which the team exploded.

Another bag, which was found to belong to a school pupil, was also exploded later on Monday.

Bomb alerts in tourist attractions such as the Louvre museum and the Versailles palace have also increased in the wake of the Hamas attack in Israel on Oct. 7.

France has been on high alert since raising its security threshold in October, when a Chechen-origin man with a knife killed a teacher in a school in northern France.

Last Saturday, one person died and two others were injured after a man attacked tourists in central Paris near the Eiffel Tower.

The attack occurred on the Quai de Grenelle – a spot also included in the plans for the opening ceremony.

Asked if the government was mulling a change to its plan to hold the ceremony on the River Seine, with several hundred thousand spectators expected along its banks, amid the security threats French sports minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said there was no “Plan B”.

Some 160 boats will set off on July 26 from the Pont d’Austerlitz for a six-kilometre journey to the Pont d’Iena in an event Tony Estanguet, the head of the Games’ organising committee, described as “unique and spectacular.”

“We’ve been preparing for the Olympic Games for over 18 months now,” Pezron added. “For 18 months now, we’ve been in constant dialogue with Paris 2024, with our authorities, to define the right level of bomb-disposal intervention.

“So, any particular fears or stress? No. On the other hand, we’re working more and more to ensure that our organisation is as efficient as possible.”

(Reporting by Antonia Cimini; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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