France boosts security before Rugby World Cup

With no room for mistakes before next year’s Paris Olympics, French authorities have pledged to mobilise a record number of police officers to guarantee a smooth Rugby World Cup.

Authorities are desperate not to have a repeat of the chaos outside the stadium that marred the 2022 Champions League final.

The rugby tournament starts on Friday at the same Stade de France where the security fiasco last year drew worldwide attention to heavy-handed policing, raising questions about how France manages security at big events.

Speaking at a news conference in Paris, French Interior Minister Gerard Darmanin said more than 5100 police officers will be mobilised every match day during the tournament, and up to 7500 at peak times, including Friday’s opening match between France and New Zealand or the tournament’s final on October 28.

“It’s unprecedented for a sporting event,” Mr Darmanin said.

He added the mobile forces deployed Friday will be used at the stadium and to monitor tourist areas and public transport, as well as fan zones.

“On top, obviously, of the 1210 police deployed in Paris and Seine-Saint-Denis to maintain security and of course, to fight against terrorism,” he said.

About 600,000 foreign visitors and two million spectators are expected to attend the competition hosted across France in nine cities.

Last year, tens of thousands of fans were held in increasingly crushed queues for hours before the Champions League final at the 75,000-capacity Stade de France, which is a key venue for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Many fans were fired on with tear gas by police before the game, which was delayed by nearly 40 minutes.

After Real Madrid’s 1-0 victory, dozens were robbed by local residents while leaving the stadium in the impoverished Saint-Denis neighbourhood.

Although UEFA was blamed for the near-disaster at the Champions League final, French senators said the fiaco was also because of a series of mistakes by police, with “malfunction at every stage” before, during and after the game.

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