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France readies for World Cup, Bastille Day weekend

rance fans react on the Champs-Elysees after defeating Belgium in their World Cup semi-final match.
rance fans react on the Champs-Elysees after defeating Belgium in their World Cup semi-final match. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Security has been tightened for the weekend for what France hopes will be back-to-back celebrations of the July 14 Bastille Day festivities and a 2018 World Cup final victory.

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At a press conference Thursday, Paris Police Chief Michel Delpuech said 12,000 officers and 3,000 rescue workers will be mobilised in Paris and its suburbs for France's national day on Saturday and on Sunday, when France meets Croatiafor the World Cup final match in Moscow.

The traditional Bastille Day military parade on the Champs Élysées will be followed, the next day, by public viewings of the World Cup, including at a massive fan zone around the Champ de Mars Park near the iconic Eiffel Tower.

Around 4,000 police officers will be deployed around the Champ de Mars Park, where an expected 90,000 fans will gather to watch the match on giant screens.

The measures come exactly two years after a truck, driven by an Islamic State (IS) group sympathiser, rammed into a crowd watching the July 14 celebrations in the southern French city of Nice, killing 86 people. Paris has also experienced a number of attacks as well as foiled bomb plots following the January 2015 “Charlie Hebdo attacks”.

“Let's never lose sight of the fact that we're living in a context of very real terror threats. Our goal is to ensure that these events take place without any problem,” said Delpuech.

Security measures at public World Cup viewing sites would mirror those put in place during the 2016 UEFA Euro tournament, which France hosted months after the deadly November 13, 2015, Paris attacks.

Monitoring access points

The French interior ministry has given clear instructions to town and city authorities: open air broadcasts of the match may only take place in areas where entry points can be heavily monitored.

In the eastern French city of Lyon, up to 20,000 football fans are expected on the famous Place Bellecour, which will be completely sealed off for the match. Vehicles will be prohibited around the site with anti-vehicle blocks set up at each entrance.

They are familiar measures in a country that has been exposed to terror threats. “There's no such thing as zero risk,” said a Lyon resident. “But I think the authorities know what they're doing, and will do whatever's necessary.”

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