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Paris expects 600,000 for Olympics opening: minister

Paris expects a crowd of 600,000 at the 2024 summer Olympics’ opening ceremony which is to take place on the river Seine, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said Tuesday.

Rather than in an athletics stadium as is customary, France plans to celebrate the ceremony on July 26, 2024, with a flotilla of some 200 boats down the river Seine.

The banks of the river can accomodate 100,000 people who will have to buy tickets, while another 500,000 will be able to watch for free from the street level above, Darmanin told a French senate committee.

The organisers of the Paris Olympics have pushed ahead with the preparations for the ambitious opening ceremony despite security concerns.

Darmanin said 35,000 security forces would be deployed for the opening ceremony, with organisers told to add 3,000 privately hired security staff.

For the entire duration of the Games, an average of 30,000 police and gendarmes per day will be on duty, he said.

All interior ministry staff will be barred from taking leave during the Games, which end on August 11.

Other major sporting or cultural events, including the Tour de France, will be moved or cancelled if their timing is in conflict with the Games.

Darmanin came in for heavy criticism following the crowd chaos at this year’s Champions League final at the Stade de France.

A French Senate inquiry contradicted initial assertions by UEFA and the French government that Liverpool fans had been mainly responsible for the trouble by not having proper tickets.

The inquiry instead cited a “string of dysfunctions” including a lack of preparation by authorities and UEFA, as well as poorly executed security arrangements.

An aide to President Emmanuel Macron told reporters in September that France was discussing with the International Olympic Committee “if savings could be made” on some events and sites.

Paris was aiming to be the most energy-efficient and cost-effective possible, creating a “new model” for the competition, the aide added.