PARIS, Jan 10 (Reuters) – Organizers of the Paris 2024 Olympics need to finalize their security plans for the Games, France’s top audit body said on Tuesday, warning that the opening ceremony on the River Seine posed a major challenge and would likely need police support.
In a report presented to the French parliament, the Court of Auditors made 15 recommendations to the organizing committee, highlighting concerns around a reliance on private security operators to protect the Games and risks over transport links.
Pierre Moscovici, the first president of the Court of Auditors, called the security of Paris 2024 a ‘major challenge’, and said internal security forces such as the police and army needed to be incorporated and paid for.
“We’re asking that the global security plan is finalized in the first trimester of 2023 so the reinforcement by internal security forces can be planned. We also recommend that the transport plan be finalized site by site,” said Moscovici, a former French finance minister and European Commissioner for Economic and Financial affairs.
“It’s doable but what the Court wants to say is that it is high time to get into the operational phase. It’s not too late but it’s tense.”
The 2024 Olympic Games will be held from July 26-Aug. 11 and the Paralympics from Aug. 28-Sept. 8.
Moscovici said the opening ceremony on the Seine was a challenge and organizers should plan for police and army support.
Organizers expect at least 600,000 to attend the Summer Olympics opening ceremony on the Seine as athletes and delegations will sail along the river to kick off the Games.
Some 160 boats will set off on July 26 from the Pont d’Austerlitz for a six-kilometer journey to the Pont d’Iena.
Paris 2024 Chief Finance and Compliance officer Fabrice Lacroix told Reuters it was still too soon to tell whether the police or army would be needed and the committee had just issued a tender for private security.
“If at the end of the day we need public resources, we will support the cost, and it will not cost more than paying for private security,” he said, adding he agreed with the Court of Auditors that it can be difficult to find trained security agents at short notice.
The report also urges Paris 2024 to complete the renovation of transport facilities in time for the Games and points out the risk of delays on the Metro’s line 14, and at major rail hubs such as the Gare du Nord.
The Court of Auditors underlined that inflation was eating into the organizing committee’s budget, which was increased by 10 per cent last December.
“There is a 315 million euro ($338 million) contingency reserve and it is worrying that 115 million has already been used,” said Nacer Meddah, the president of the third chamber of the Court of Auditors.
Lacroix said he expected the reserve would be fully used by the end of the Games.
France guarantees any budget deficit by the organizing committee, and Meddah said it would be “catastrophic” if that guarantee was triggered. Uncertainties surrounding the budget called for “rigorous scrutiny,” Moscovici said.
A senior member of the Court of Auditors, who declined to be named because they are not at liberty to discuss the matter publicly, pointed out that Paris 2024 organizers had failed to come up with a ‘worst case scenario’ plan regarding finances.
Despite concerns about planning as a whole, Moscovici said auditors were not “ringing the alarm bell.”
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(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Alexandra Hudson;)