Foreign military to boost security for Paris 2024

Several countries will send military personnel to France to bolster security for the Olympic Games in Paris from 26 July, the French defence ministry has announced.

The security of the Olympic Games is not just a national concern; in today's turbulent world, it has taken on an international dimension. Wars, terrorist attacks, long-running religious and political conflicts, famine, illegal immigrants (many in modern-day slavery) and a host of other problems plague the world.

These Olympics will have the added complexity of being held in central Europe, where the problems have been imported, but are no less significant and need to be addressed. Police officers and dogs from other countries will bolster security for the Paris Games, a fact confirmed by the French Ministry of Defence.

Some countries, including Poland, will send military personnel to France to help with security. The host country has raised its security alert level to maximum following last week's attack on a concert hall in Moscow, which killed at least 143 people dead. "Several foreign nations will reinforce us in critical areas, such as the handling of dogs, where the needs are considerable," the French ministry said.

Security guards wearing vests with the words
Security guards wearing vests with the words "explosive detection" at Roland Garros in 2023. GETTY IMAGES

A French interior ministry official said separately that Paris had asked 46 allies in January to send 2,185 extra police reinforcements, but he played down the significance, saying: "This is a standard step for host countries before organising major events," the French Interior Ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

The same source explained that such measures are common for this type of event and that the French police cooperated on security matters during the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

For the opening ceremony on the Seine on 26 July, the authorities announced the deployment of 45,000 security personnel in the Paris region. According to the latest figures, 18,000 French troops will be deployed during the tournament, along with a further 35,000 security personnel, with the possibility of increasing numbers if circumstances require.

In addition, "Polish armed forces will join the international coalition initiated by France to support the preparation and security of the Olympic Games," Minister Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz wrote on the social media platform X, without specifying how many soldiers would be sent from Warsaw.

Germany announced in March that it would send an unspecified number of police officers to France for the Olympics, while French forces will travel to Germany when it hosts the Euro 2024 football tournament in June and July, demonstrating extensive security cooperation.

The Polish deployments will include "sniffer dogs" to "carry out explosive detection and anti-terrorist operations", the minister added. In early January, France asked "46 foreign partners" for "around 2,185 reinforcements for its internal security forces", the French interior ministry told AFP.

During the last Rugby World Cup in France, 160 European agents, many of them British police officers, arrived in the country. The aim is to "take into account the spectator experience, respond to the capacity challenge of the Games and strengthen international cooperation", the interior ministry said, adding that Poland had offered 40 police officers and 13 dog teams.

The need for sniffer dogs capable of detecting explosives is particularly critical. "The terrorist threat is real, it's strong," French Prime Minister Gabriel Attal told reporters on Monday, adding that two alleged Islamist extremist plots had been foiled this year.

Security personnel keep watch from the catwalk at the Rugby World Cup France 2023. GETTY IMAGES
Security personnel keep watch from the catwalk at the Rugby World Cup France 2023. GETTY IMAGES

On 5 March, before the Moscow attack, the director general of internal security, Céline Berthon, told the French Senate that "terrorist organisations targeting the West will undoubtedly seize the opportunity offered by the Olympic Games as the event approaches".

The French police, gendarmerie and intelligence services "will be ready" to ensure the security of the sporting event, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said on Monday.

It is worth noting that security has taken precedence over the grandeur of the spectacle. The opening ceremony of the Games had to be redesigned and reduced by half the number of spectators originally planned.

The Olympic Games have been targeted in the past, particularly in two powerful countries such as Germany and the United States in (Munich) 1972 and (Atlanta) 1996. The gathering of spectators and athletes, and above all the global attention that an event of this magnitude attracts, makes it attractive to those who see disruption or terrorist attacks as a way of life".