France loses Euro 2016, but can claim security victory

Published: Updated:

PARIS (AP) – France has lost the European Championship but can claim victory on another front – making it safely through the monthlong tournament that drew fans from all over Europe while in a state of emergency and on high alert for Islamic extremist attacks.

Stretched security forces, already deployed at sensitive sites around France, were called into action to help ensure a safe tournament that authorities decided to go ahead with despite two waves of attacks in 2015, including November shootings and bombings of multiple sites in Paris that killed 130.

Critical voices tried to nix fan zones in each of the 10 French cities where 51 matches were held, considering them a security nightmare. Authorities refused, and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said Monday that “we were right.”

Keeping France safe during Euro 2016 took a 90,000-strong security force, including 30,000 from the private sector. Meticulous advance and day-to-day organization with intelligence, police services in France and Europe, and with soccer authorities, was necessary.

“Despite the context of a very high threat, Euro 2016, thanks to the organization of everyone, was a success,” Cazeneuve said.

There were incidents at the start of the events, when hooligans threatened to unravel planning, and a hiccup at the end with clashes between police and small groups of troublemakers under the Eiffel Tower near the Paris fan zone.

The Eiffel Tower was closed Monday following the confrontations that damaged the ground below the mammoth structure, including steel barriers, benches and some shops, according to the company that runs the monument.

But for officials that didn’t detract from the security success story, nor did the clashes with hooligans in Marseille surrounding the England-Russia match.

The success will only be complete when the Tour de France ends on July 24.

Cazeneuve called the hooligan violence “the only major incident” during Euro 2016, but said the firm hand of security forces, including expulsions of troublemakers from France, ensured that such melees were snuffed out. Dozens of fans and police were injured in the Old Port section of Marseille.

Police moved into action at the start of Sunday night’s final, using tear gas and water cannons in confrontations with people upset that the fan zone not far from the Eiffel Tower was full and closed. Trash cans and scooters were set alight, with firefighters extinguishing the blazes, police said Sunday.

About 40 arrests were made in the area and around the Stade de France, police said Monday.

The stadium was a target of the Paris attacks along with a concert hall and bars and restaurants. An earlier wave of attacks in Paris, in January 2015, killed 17.

For Euro 2016 final, when France lost 1-0 to Portugal, there were 1,900 police in the Paris fan zone. Thousands more were deployed on the famed Champs-Elysees, used for victory parades.

The work of intelligence services led to the arrests of 150 people for terrorism-linked activities since the start of the year, the interior minister said Monday, “so we could live the Euro in good conditions.”

A system was set up to keep watch on the competition with a crisis center inside the Interior Ministry working around the clock throughout the competition, European experts of countries playing brought in and a French risk analysis unit of intelligence services inside and outside France, Cazeneuve said.

“The eyes of the world were trained on France,” Cazeneuve said, providing a summing up of the security aspect of the competition. He praised cooperation between multiple services, with UEFA and the vigilance of security forces.

A total of 1,555 were detained during the tournament, with 59 convicted with firm or suspended prison sentences, the minister said, adding that 64 people were expelled and 32 banned from entering France.

But “the terrorist threat remains,” the minister warned, “obliging us each day to rise above ourselves.”

The Tour de France is providing another security challenge, along with the start this week of summer vacations in France. The Tour de France alone is being protected by 23,000 police and gendarmes.

Cazeneuve took a stab at critics who “raised doubts about the capacity of our country to organize such an event in a particularly high terrorist-threat risk context.” Some politicians had said there should be no fan zones.

“We were right to maintain fan zones, which allowed us to canalize thousands of supporters” and maintain a high concentration of surveillance, he said.

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.