Olympics-France has plan B to river Seine Olympics opening if security requires


French President Emmanuel Macron waits for the arrival of Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama (not seen) at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, April 12, 2024. REUTERS/Manon Cruz

PARIS (Reuters) -France has prepared alternatives to holding the July 26 Olympics opening ceremony on the river Seine should security reasons require, President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday.

Conflict in the Middle East and Ukraine as well as a threat of terrorist attacks have led the French government to raise its security alert to its highest level.

Macron said he was confident the planned Games ceremony with huge crowds around the Seine, where some 160 boats would set off for a 6 km journey, would be a huge success.

But France, he added, is not naive.

"If we think there are security risks we'll have plan Bs, and even plan Cs," he said.

One option, he said, would be to restrict the ceremony to the central Paris Trocadero square facing the Eiffel Tower. Another would be to move the event to the Stade de France stadium.

Macron then tried - and failed - to convince a mother, worried about security risks, to let her son go to the river Seine ceremony.

"If there is one place where your son will be safe it will be there," Macron told the mother, who asked her question during a BFM TV and RMC radio interview.

"Let him go, it's once every 100 years, the Olympics (in Paris)."

The unconvinced mother responded that she hoped her son would work that day and be unable to attend.

Macron, who gave his interview from Paris' Grand Palais museum, which has just been refurbished to host the fencing and taekwondo competitions, said he had not changed his mind about swimming in the Seine.

Paris has been working on cleaning up the Seine so that people can swim in it again, as was the case during the 1900 Paris Olympics. But a sewer problem last summer led to the cancellation of a pre-Olympics swimming event.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is also promising to swim in the Seine - more than three decades after her predecessor Jacques Chirac famously promised to do it but never did.

The United States Olympic and Paralympic leadership are comfortable with the river Seine security plans the hosts have for the opening ceremony, the team's security head Nicole Deal said.

"Definitely an unprecedented opening ceremony," she told reporters in New York.

"We're outside and it's going to be four miles long. I've been working with the French, and they have put tons of resources... and capabilities in place, a lot that you don't see. And they've been working on this plan for a long time."

(Reporting by Ingrid Melander, Tassilo Hummel, Jean-Stephane Brosse; additional reporting by Amy Tennery and Rory Carroll in New York; editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Andrew Cawthorne)

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