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France readies for Euro 2016 with intense security measures

Anmar Frangoul | Special to
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On Friday night, host nation France will face off against Romania in the opening match of Euro 2016, one of soccer's most prestigious international tournaments.

The championship will be held across stadiums in France and will showcase some of the world's best footballers. It will take place amid heightened security concerns after a series of high-profile, fatal terror attacks in France and neighboring Belgium.

Friday's match will be held at the Stade de France in Paris, where suicide bombers struck in November, killing four people, including themselves. That incident was part of a series of co-ordinated assaults on the city that killed 130 people and came after an earlier attack on Paris in January that left 17 dead.

This week, the U.K. government warned there was "a high threat from terrorism" at Euro 2016 – hot on the heels of a similar alert from the U.S. State Department. French authorities appear to be leaving little to chance and the country is set to remain in a state of emergency until July 26, after the tournament is over.

"The authorities will consider previous attacks, so they will be preparing for a small arms attacks similar to what we saw in Paris (on) November 13 last year and the January attacks at (the office of) Charlie Hebo," David Lowe, an expert in terrorism from the U.K.'s Liverpool John Moores University, told CNBC.

"(These types of attacks) are relatively easy to plan and carry out and they give the maximum effect in both casualties and in the terror effect," he said, adding that suicide bombings were another possibility.

What should fans expect?

French soldiers patrol in the fan zone in Nice, southeastern France on June 8, 2016, two days before the start of Euro 2016.
Valery Hache | AFP | Getty Images

The French government expects 2.5 million spectators – many from abroad – will attend Euro 2016 games across France this summer.

These fans should expect queues at stadiums and other venues, Malcolm Tarbitt, executive director of safety and security at the International Centre for Sport Security, told CNBC.

"With French authorities extending the state of emergency to cover Euro 2016, fans will obviously have to expect a higher level of security than they're used to at stadiums and other venues," Tarbitt said.

"As a result, a bit of patience, good humor and common sense will be required."

Around 90,000 people are set to provide security during the tournament, including 42,000 police officers and 10,000 soldiers. Each competing soccer team will be assigned at least two of France's elite RAID officers.

France will deploy police and gendarmerie around the perimeters of stadiums, in advance, while local authorities will be responsible for security in and around fan zones.


Armed police officers stand by the England team's coach as the players leave their hotel in Chantilly, on June 9, 2016 ahead of Euro 2016.
Paul Ellis | AFP | Getty Images

The U.K. government has told Britons attending games to be "vigilant at all times," warning that stadiums and transport hubs could be targeted by terrorists.

On the same note, Tarbitt told CNBC that vigilance from the public was one of the several factors that could help keep the tournament safe, along with effective communication and intelligence gathering.

"When it comes to securing any major international sport event, intelligence and coordinating information quickly and appropriately through the various levels of public and private stakeholders involved in securing the event will be vital," he told CNBC.

"Whether this is sensitive intelligence about possible terrorist suspects from different countries or even information about security operations at a particular venue, effective communications between all parties involved with security and the general public will be an important area for the overall success and security of the tournament."

Planning ahead

Police and security forces take part in a life sized anti-terrorism drill in Lyon, France on June 7, 2016.
Serge Mouraret | Corbis | Getty Images

Lowe and Tarbitt said France had likely made detailed plans of possible responses to attacks.

"Unfortunately, French authorities have got very recent experience of dealing with terrorist attacks and from the previous attacks they suffered, one important task that will have been carried out is the debrief, from which to learn what went well and what did not go so well and learn from it," Lowe said.

Tarbitt said preparedness exercises had been carried out in the run-up to the tournament.

"For any potential major incident at stadium or fan venue, evacuating spectators and ensuring a rapid response from police and ambulance services will be prioritized. Neutralizing any threat and treatment of any possible casualties will follow shortly after," he told CNBC.

Lowe added that the likelihood of an attack occurring was still remote. "One also has to look at the number of attacks that have occurred (in relation) to those that have been prevented in Europe," he said.

"France is on such a high security alert and has kept its state of emergency, many of the locations linked to the tournament will be hard for terrorists to penetrate," he added.