Attacks put more focus on security for Euro 2016PARIS - As France grappled with the aftermath of another terrorist attack, organizers of the European soccer championship faced renewed concerns about how to protect fans who will be attending 51 matches in 10 stadiums around the country next year.
Friday night’s deadly bloodshed started when two explosions went off outside Stade de France during the national team’s match against Germany. The same stadium will host the tournament’s opening game on June 10 and the final game a month later.
“There was already a concern for the Euros, now it’s obviously a lot higher,” French Football Federation president Noel Le Graet acknowledged.
President Francois Hollande, who was attending the game and had to be evacuated from the stadium, called the attacks “an act of war.”
Now, his government, security officials and organizers face a massive task to assure the hundreds of thousands of fans planning to come to France next summer that the country is safe.
At the same time, they must find a way to let all those supporters into the country without letting potential terrorists cross the border as well.
“We will continue to do everything we can so that security is assured despite all the risks that this entails. I know that everyone is vigilant,” Le Graet said after Friday’s match.
“Obviously this means that we will now be even more vigilant. But it’s a permanent concern for the Federation and the State.”
The European tournament is held every four years and is second in global prestige only to the World Cup. With 24 teams involved across 10 venues, the risks are enormous and the fans heavily exposed to danger, inside and outside stadiums.
Before Friday’s game, 80,000 spectators spilled off trains and walked in droves for several hundred meters to the stadium. Had the explosives gone off then, the casualty count could have been much worse.
Inside the stadium, fans tried to stay calm as news unfolded of the bloody events. There was confusion, and fans were unsure whether to rush toward the exit gates or stay in their seats. Thousands walked onto the safety of the field.
“We felt safer inside the stadium but we were getting more and more terrifying news,” Arnaud Assoumani, the 2008 Paralympic long jump champion told L’Equipe’s TV channel.
“There was an announcement at the end to say certain gates were open. I feared a crowd surge, which is what happened. Everyone was trying to get out of the doors at the same time. Some people were running and they were pushed up against walls and barriers. I don’t think there were injuries but it was a panic surge.”