The United States has issued a Europe Travel Alert over the risk of potential terrorist attacks throughout Europe targeting tourist sites, major events, transportation, restaurants, and commercial centres. The alert focuses on the Euro 2016 soccer championship being held in France from June 10 to July 10 as a major event with a high threat level. France has issued a state of emergency until July 26, as the matches are expected to draw several million fans from across the continent and the globe. In the wake of the Paris and Brussels terrorist attacks that shook Europe, French security has taken major steps to mitigate any risk of further terrorist attacks during the third-largest sporting event in the world.
Stade de France
The Stade de France was one of the targets in the Paris terrorist attacks last November, where three suicide bombers attempted to reach the interior of the stadium during the Germany–France match. However, the robust security and well trained staff denied entry to the bombers, preventing what could have been a massacre. The Stade de France and the rest of the stadiums and fan zones across the country will now go above and beyond their already strong security precautions in attempt to eliminate any potential threats.
France is deploying nearly 100,000 security forces to safeguard the 51 games and 10 venues across the country. The security forces will protect the tournament, match venues, fan zones, and any other areas where fans may congregate. Furthermore, all the bases of the 24 competing countries and stadiums where matches will take place have been declared no-fly zones.
Extensive security measures
In addition to the vast number of boots on the ground, the physical security measures in place at the events are sweeping. Stadiums have security cordons at their perimeter and security screening checkpoints at the entrances. Even the fan zones will have security standards equivalent to the stadiums, since some zones will attract upwards of 90,000 people in one location. Security checks will be similar to those used in French airports and include bag scanners, metal detectors, and pat-downs, if necessary. The stadiums will have thousands of police and private security guards in operation. Moreover, in every match location a command centre will be set up to centralize the security operation by connecting emergency personnel and police. These locations will also have riot squads, police snipers, and armoured vehicles.
French authorities have also introduced new technology to bolster their already vast security efforts. For example, authorities are using new equipment designed to take control of and divert suspicious drones around venues rather than destroying them. Additionally, France has launched a new app called SAIP (système d’alerte et d’information des populations), which alerts users immediately if there is an attack or suspicion of an attack in eight different geographical locations; it also sends emergency instructions within fifteen minutes of an event to the user. A SAIP spokesperson responded to the public’s growing concern for safety, saying that France must not overestimate the threat of terrorism, but, above all, the country must be vigilant.
Security precautions to bear in mind
The French security operations are clearly vigorous and exhaustive, yet travel alerts and advisories are still on the minds of fans and travellers. If you are travelling to France during Euro 2016, it is important to keep in mind the following security precautions on top of the safety measures French authorities have implemented.
- Stay aware of your surroundings and try to avoid overly crowded areas if possible
- Be extremely vigilant when travelling on public transportation or in public places
- Monitor local media and use any updates or news to plan your travel and activities accordingly
- Leave extra time for additional security screening and any other disruptions during Euro 2016. In the event of an emergency, follow the instructions of local authorities and have a prepared emergency plan with friends or family, such as how to reach each other if separated or how to get in touch
- Use common sense and be an informed traveller, so that in the event of an emergency you will be prepared and safe
Euro 2016 security update: June 14, 2016
After the first weekend of matches in France, security concerns continue to grow. The Russia–England game in Marseille caused major headaches for French authorities. Before the match, police used tear gas on both groups of fans to try and deter violence. However, during the game, Russian fans shot flares before the final whistle in the Stade Velodrome. They managed to smuggle in smoke bombs, flares, and fireworks, raising questions on the level of security at the perimeter check-points of the stadium. After the game, Russian fans stormed the English section inside of the stadium and began hurling objects and punching and kicking the opposing team supporters. English fans fled to exits in a panic, causing a dangerous stampede in the 67,000-person arena.
Overall, 31 people were injured on Saturday. Police ordered bars and restaurants to shut once the game ended, and alcohol was banned near venues and was not sold in stadiums in an attempt to curtail clashes. The violence in Marseille was described as the worst football violence in years, which is causing trouble for the over-stretched French police, who very clearly have other issues to worry about.
There are evidently gaps in security for the tournament, and England has offered to send more police for the country’s next game in Lens, France. European soccer body UEFA has opened disciplinary proceedings against Russia’s soccer association after the violence. Additionally, England and Russia could be expelled from the games if fan violence continues. Beyond the England–Russia match, Nice experienced brief violence on Saturday when Northern Irish and local fans threw glass bottles at each other. Additionally, before the Turkey and Croatia game in Paris, 15 people were arrested in scuffles. French authorities have also prevented 3,000 fans from entering the country based on lists of hooligans provided by foreign countries. Authorities have focused heavily on eliminating terrorist threats, but they definitely need to improve their approach to hooligans and fan clashes in the coming weeks of high profile games.