Paris won't allow tourists free access to Olympics opening ceremony along the Seine River

PARIS — Tourists won’t be allowed to watch the opening ceremony of the Paris Olympics for free as initially promised, the French government announced Tuesday, as it grapples with security concerns about the unprecedented open-air event along the Seine River.

Organizers had planned a grandiose opening ceremony July 26 for as many as 600,000 people, most watching free of charge. But security and logistical concerns – and outcry from booksellers along the city’s picturesque quays – have led the government to progressively scale back ambitions.

Authorities now expect to allow 222,000 spectators to watch for free from the upper embankments overlooking the Seine, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told a Senate hearing Tuesday.

But two Interior Ministry officials said that instead of being open to the public via an online registration system as earlier envisaged, access to the ceremony will be allocated via quotas to select residents of towns hosting Olympic events, and others chosen by organizers or their partners.

The officials were not authorized to be publicly named according to ministry policy.

The officials said the decision means tourists will not be able to sign up for free access, and described this as ‘’Plan B’’ after months of discussions about how to safely carry out the ceremony. The officials said the decision was taken with local authorities and will help “diversify” the attendance while making it easier for the government to ensure security.

Another 104,000 people are expected to watch the river ceremonies from lower embankments with paid tickets, Darmanin said.

With France on high alert, Darmanin said intelligence services haven’t identified a specific plot targeting the Olympics but said there are multiple potential threats, including from Islamic extremist groups, violent environmental activists and ultra-right groups, as well as cyberattacks from Russia or other adversaries.

It’s the first time an Olympics kickoff is held outside a stadium setting, in line with the Paris organizers’ motto: “Games Wide Open.” Tens of thousands of police officers and soldiers will be deployed as athletes parade through the heart of the French capital on boats on the Seine along a 6-kilometer (3.7-mile) route.


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