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The French capital is hosting the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games from 26 July to 8 September, which will lead to severe disruptions to roads, public transport and airports.

This assessment was issued to clients of Dragonfly’s Security Intelligence & Analysis Service (SIAS) on 19 January 2024.

  • Paris is a generally safe and secure city for travel and operations; this is unlikely to change this year
  • The main day-to-day risks for travellers and firms in the city – irrespective of the games – remain petty crime and travel disruption due to protests and road closures

Paris is generally a safe and secure city for travel and operations, in our assessment. Petty crime and disruption from protests and road closures are the main day-to-day security considerations; our general crime and civil unrest risk ratings for the city are moderate. The 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games (26 July to 8 September), hosted in the city, will result in significant traffic and other travel disruption in areas near the Tour Eiffel from March and citywide from July until the end of September. We also assess that there is a strong possibility of terrorist attacks, especially since the onset of the Israel-Hamas war.

Travel disruption due to the Olympics

There will be significant travel disruption in parts of central Paris from March, and citywide from July until late September. This is especially near competition zones from March, as the authorities will start setting up temporary stadiums. These zones include areas around the Jardins du Trocadero and the Tour Eiffel. From early July, road closures and other police security measures will be implemented around the Stade de France, Jardins du Trocadero and the Seine River. These disruptions will be particularly acute during the opening ceremony (26 July) and race days (3-4 August and 8-9 August).

The authorities have advised that there will be at least several hundred thousand spectators in the city during the events. ‘Massive crowds’ in central areas will result in the capital’s roads and public transport being under heightened strain and disruption. There will also be major disruptions at airports during the entire period. Based on recent high-profile events in the city, we anticipate that main transport hubs, such as Gare du Nord, Gare de l’Est, and Gare de Lyon stations, will be particularly affected, as well as major roads, like the A1 and the Boulevard Peripherique.

Petty crime concentrated in tourist areas and transport hubs

There is a reasonable chance of travellers and business people being exposed to petty crime in Paris. This includes pickpocketing, bag snatching and other scams (see map for the relative risk in arrondissements). Those often occur after dark and during holiday periods. Criminals generally operate in tourist sites, public squares, parks and public transport (and stations). Crime data released by the Interior Ministry last year indicates that general crime rates in the city have been steadily rising in recent years, especially theft and burglary. But in our analysis, they are likely to remain relatively comparable to other major West European cities.

Criminals often try to distract and pickpocket victims. Travellers are reportedly also particularly vulnerable to scams in the areas by the Seine River, Tour Eiffel, Sacre-Coeur and Jardins des Tuileries. But a visible police presence in the city appears to act as a deterrent for more serious crimes. The roads from the airports to the city are generally safe, but criminals have occasionally attempted to stop and rob items from vehicles, especially on the A1 from Charles de Gaulle Airport and in the northeast.

Serious and violent crime is relatively uncommon in Paris city centre. Crime data released last year suggests that, in contrast with non-violent and petty crime, there was a decline in the number of violent unarmed thefts (-11.1%), deliberate damage and destruction (-3.16%), and theft of vehicles (-3.8%) compared with 2021-2022. Local media reports suggest that many serious and violent crimes occur in low-income areas on the outskirts, like in the northeast, and that gangs that tend to conduct them often target one another.

Protests are common

Disruptive demonstrations and labour activism are common in the French capital. That is particularly transport and other public sector protests and strikes. They sometimes turn violent on the fringes and even escalate into riots. Protests are especially common at main squares, major landmarks and government buildings. Locations where they have often happened include Place de la Nation and Place de la Bastille. These and other key locations, which protesters also frequently march between, are marked on the map above.

The largest demonstrations this year will probably be over police violence, hardship, the Israel-Hamas conflict, immigration reforms, and other social and political changes. These are likely to draw anywhere from several thousand to tens of thousands of people. Demonstrations are especially common on Thursday afternoons. Strikes in recent years have shut down much of the public transport, while protests sometimes cause localised traffic disruption for a few hours.

Terrorism risk high

There currently appears to be an elevated terrorism threat in Paris. Beyond the upcoming Olympics – and due to France’s strong stance on secularism – the country is a preferred target for jihadists. The ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict has added to extremists’ intent to act; we have seen hostile statements on extremist platforms that we monitor since the start of the war. There has also been a significant increase in the number of bomb threats since 2023, leading to temporary evacuations or closures at airports and tourist sites.

We will probably maintain our terrorism threat level for Paris at severe throughout this year. The French authorities temporarily raised their national terrorism threat to the highest level, ‘attack emergency’, until 15 January this year following a fatal jihadist stabbing of a teacher in Arras on 13 October 2023. But the interior minister later said on 23 October that the authorities have ‘no indications of clear threats’. We agree that there does not seem to be specific intelligence of imminent attacks or that jihadists are becoming highly capable. But they will very likely be intent on targeting an event with worldwide publicity like the Olympics.

Any attack would very probably be crude, involving a lone actor conducting a stabbing or vehicle-ramming. The most likely location would be a busy tourist area or near a competition site. These attacks do not require that much planning or coordination, so are more difficult for the authorities to detect. But, the French authorities now secure open-air venues (such as markets and shopping areas) with large bollards and barricades. This, along with other mitigation measures and surveillance, makes mass-casualty attacks improbable.

Image: Police officers wave union flags in front of Paris’ Hotel de Ville on 18 January 2024 during a rally called by French police unions to obtain “exceptional measures” in compensation for their compulsory presence at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Photo by Dimitar Dilkoff / AFP via Getty Images.