Fewer fans allowed at Paris opening ceremony. GETTY IMAGES

The organisers of the Paris Olympic Games have further reduced the number of spectators allowed to attend the opening ceremony of the 33rd Games of the modern era.

The French government announced this week that it has had to reduce the number of people who will be able to attend and enjoy the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games in the French capital from 26 July 2024.

For security and organisational reasons, the number of spectators at the ceremony, which will be watched around the world, has been halved. An initial estimate of 600,000 people has been reduced to around 300,000 ticketed fans.

Similarly, the Games' traditional opening parade on boats on the Seine on 26 July will take place outside the main athletics stadium for the first time, despite conflicting opinions from some experts. There is currently no discussion or consideration of an alternative scenario.

After months of speculation about a reduction from the 600,000 proposed by French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin for 2022, it was finally decided that around 300,000 ticketed fans would join the athletes for the emotional milestone of the Olympic Games.

The complexity of securing an event along six kilometres of river through the centre of a city the size of Paris has taken a toll on the initial ambitions. "I know that we have the best security forces in the world and that we will be able to show not only that we can win medals (at the Games), but also that we can host the world without any problems," Darmanin told a French broadcaster.

The idea of a spectacular open-air parade of hundreds of boats has raised concerns in many French security circles about the difficulty of controlling crowds and the risk of terrorist attacks, heightened by recent high-profile incidents.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin. GETTY IMAGES
French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin. GETTY IMAGES

The artistic director in charge of the ceremony, the young theatre director Thomas Jolly, admitted that contingency plans had been drawn up in the event of a direct terrorist threat or bad weather. "We have many different plans, but the location of the ceremony will remain on the Seine," he said.

Minister Darmanin said that 100,000 tickets had already been sold for the best seats on the lower banks of the river, while another 200,000 would have free access to the upper banks.

This reduced figure of 300,000 people will still be a record attendance for an opening ceremony. By way of comparison, the last Olympic Games with an audience, held in Rio in 2016, had an attendance of 80,000 at the iconic Maracanã stadium.
In addition to those with an official seat at the ceremony, many people will be able to watch from the hundreds of buildings overlooking the Seine in the capital. This will increase the number of participants.

The outdoor boat parade is in keeping with the promise to make the Paris Olympics "iconic", with the Local Organising Committee keen to break with past traditions in the way it stages the world's biggest sporting event.

The opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing is widely regarded as the most spectacular in history, while the 2012 ceremony in London, overseen by Trainspotting director Danny Boyle, won rave reviews for showcasing Britain's quirky side.

A boat on the Seine during the technical test event for the Paris 2024 opening ceremony. GETTY IMAGE
A boat on the Seine during the technical test event for the Paris 2024 opening ceremony. GETTY IMAGE

With global warming and climate change affecting us all, the 2016 ceremony in Rio was also innovative and well received for its focus on nature and its commitment to limiting the impact of human activity on Mother Earth.

True to its tradition, Paris will not be left behind. It wants to leave a lasting impression on the world by organising the "People's Olympics", which will not only see mass participation at the ceremony, but also free access for tens of thousands of people on the opening day.

The head of the Paris region, Valerie Pecresse, welcomed the reduction: "It seems to us to be a much more reasonable level that will guarantee the safety of spectators and travellers on public transport."

In the same vein, a senior French security official recently said that the organisers had "eyes bigger than their stomachs" when planning the opening and that their initial crowd estimates were "too high", and welcomed the reduction.

France was placed on high alert for terrorist attacks in October after a suspected Islamist broke into a school in northern France and stabbed a teacher to death. The country has been a perennial target of Islamic extremists over the past decade, most notably the Islamic State group. The conflict in Gaza is exacerbating tensions and "the terrorist risk is extremely high," Darmanin added.