FRANCE – Here at the world’s largest annual sporting event, the Tour de France, there is a heightened sense of security and police presence everywhere as organizers have increased counterterrorism efforts, bringing in 23,000 police officers and elite guards to help ensure the safety of the 198 riders who took the start and the millions of spectators who line the roadside during July’s three-week race.
It comes after a spate of terrorist attacks around the world and in Europe, including those in London, Stockholm, Berlin, Paris, and Manchester, England. Last year during the Tour, a terrorist drove a van into a crowd of revelers celebrating Bastille Day on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, killing 86 people and injuring hundreds more.
Pierre-Yves Thouault, the assistant Tour director in charge of security, told Business Insider that numerous steps had been taken to increase security at this year’s race.
“First of all, the security of the Tour is managed by the French government, and the interior minister links with us,” the Amaury Sport Organization, which organizes the race, Thouault said through a translator. “Twenty-three thousand police officers and gendarmerie are here for the entire event. Then you have to add the foreign-state forces as well” – those in Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg, where the race has visited this year.
“In addition, we have the Republican Guard, the mission police, and the private use of the road for the security and the safety of the race,” he said. “We also have the risk of a terrorist attack, but this risk does not exist only in France and it is not linked only to the Tour. The terrorism risk exists every day, everywhere. On top of that, we do help by adding more private security, more staff, more checking point, more control [checks] of the credential process.”
Organizers have added CCTV cameras and brought in bomb-sniffing dogs, and plain-clothes police officers are mixing in with spectators, Thouault said. There is involvement from the National Gendarmerie Intervention Group, an elite tactical unit that specializes in counterterrorism, AFP reported. The unit is divided into two teams, one following the Tour on the road and the other following it by helicopter.
And while France officially remains in a state of emergency, “For the moment, everything is good well,” Thouault told Business Insider on Saturday. “I cannot tell more for confidentiality reasons, but so far it is OK.” He emphasized that the biggest risk during the Tour was actually road accidents, and organizers had implemented training for a lot the drivers in the race.
See related photos from the Tour below.
The terror threat in France is high, and the country remains in a state of emergency. Organizers worked with the interior minister to ensure the safety of everyone at the race, and 23,000 officers have been deployed.
We saw gendarmerie, France’s armed military police, everywhere, including at the start and finish of each stage and along the course.
We saw elite guards with high-powered assault rifles.
“When 12 million people line the roadside, vehicles pass, there are cyclists in front and behind, you have to be careful that enthusiasm doesn’t eliminate attentiveness,” Tour director Christian Prudhomme told AFP.
Armed police officers checked spectators’ bags and kept vigilant in the otherwise festive race atmosphere.
This Tour started in Germany before heading to Belgium and Luxembourg, where state police officers from those countries worked closely with Tour officials, as here in Liége.
While uniformed police officers have been present at the stage starts and finishes, Pierre-Yves Thouault, the assistant Tour director in charge of security, told Business Insider that plainclothes officers were also mixing in with spectators.
“For the moment, everything is good well,” a Tour security official told Business Insider. “I cannot tell more for confidentiality reasons, but so far it is OK.”