PSG go to Star Wars amid terror fears as Paris Olympics chiefs brace for launch

By Paul Myers - RFI
France REUTERS - Gonzalo Fuentes
REUTERS - Gonzalo Fuentes

Quite where all this is going boggles the mind. Just over 24 hours after the French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin declared that Paris Saint-Germain's Champions League match against Barcelona at the Parc des Princes had featured on an Islamic State video as a target, PSG and their fans reacted to the terror threat before the game with tunes from the sound track of the Star Wars movies and skits on two of the saga's main characters.

As a tifo depicting Darth Vader in a Barcelona shirt was unfurled at one end of the stadium, the interstellar hitman's Imperial March blared out of the public address system's weapons-grade speakers.

Naturally, the tifo of Yoda, the pocket-sized Jedi guru cum galactic do-gooder, was with the diehards down at the other end of the arena as a PSG star striker brandishing a light sabre in each hand in the PSG colours.

The unfettered zaniness ahead of one of the most prestigious night's in the European football calendar also seemed incongruous with the air of caution and carefulness promulgated by Darmanin as he toured the river police forces in Paris on Tuesday.

But PSG during its big spending era has often operated as a hyper space where decorum and logic appear to have been zapped.

Following the tussle at the Parc des Princes, Vader's boys will take a 3-2 advantage to Spain where PSG will attempt to stage a rebellion in order to pursue their Champions League destiny.   

Fortunately, Tony Estanguet, the chief of the Paris Olympics organising committee, struck the right note amid Darmanin's exhortations.


"I can tell you that an enormous amount of extremely detailed work is being done at the highest levels of government to guarantee the safety of the athletes from all the delegations, and also the spectators from all the countries," said Estanguet during a press conference to highlight the state of Olympic affairs just over 100 days from the opening ceremony on 26 July.

Looking well-clipped and relaxed in a black T-shirt and dark chinos, the 45-year-old has developed into a well-versed and polished performer. And why not? He was holding court just yards from his offices at the organisers' nerve centre in Aubervilliers on the northern fringes of Paris.

"Never before has France been so proactive and deployed so many security resources," the three-time Olympic gold medallist said.

"I have every confidence in our country's law enforcement agencies to ensure the security of these Games.

"There is a lot of talk about the opening ceremony," he added. "The reality is that it's a whole Olympic area that needs to be made safe.

“If there is no safety, everything else is pointless. So if there's one subject on which we've never taken a risk or ever put ourselves at risk, it's this one."


Around 45,000 law enforcement personnel will be deployed along the six-kilometre stretch of the river Seine that will stage the first Olympics opening ceremony to be held outside the main athletics stadium.

And for the rest of the Games, there will be 30,000 placed around the various Olympic venues in the city centre and just outside in places such as La Defense Arena to the west where the swimming races will be held and to the north at theAquatics Centre in Saint Denis – the site for the synchronized swimming and diving. 

Ever the showman, Estanguet used his powwow with reporters to announce that 250,000 tickets will go on sale on 17 April when the 100-day countdown begins with another splash of activities.

“The tickets will be in all price categories and at all competition venues,” he beamed. “So for those who have missed out so far, there will still be a few opportunities left for all of the sports. “

In an attempt to deflect criticismabout the costs, around half of the tickets will be less than 100 euros. Around 13,000 tickets will be more than 400 euros.

And to underline the universal nature of the games, Estanguet added: “I note that there are some good prices for the women's football match between the United States and Germany in Marseille.


“What a wonderful and rare chance to see a high quality encounter on our soil.  I really hope that people take the chance to see these kind of games.

“We're facing the final straight,” Estanguet added. “The Paris 2024 teams have been working for several years to organise this wonderful event and we've got 100 days to fine-tune the celebration to which all the world will be coming.”

Sandwiched in between Estanguet's blandishments and PSG's bumptiousness, senior French politicians produced their six-month long inquiry into whether the country was actually capable of handling the Games.

During their travels, senators Agnès Canayer and Marie-Pierre de La Gontrie met nearly 100 people involved in the organisation of the games from private security trainers to operators of video surveillance equipment.

They also made a half a dozen trips to logistics centres as well as the headquarters of Estanguet's committee.

Canayer, like Estanguet, was at pains to highlight the importance of security beyond the opening ceremony. She said the torch relay, which starts on 8 May from Marseille, posed particular problems.


“It will pass through more than 400 towns and cities,” she added. “It will have 10,000 torchbearers crossing the route, throughout mainland France and even overseas. This too is a major safety issue.”

But the team declared that - with one of two pieces of fine-tuning – the land was in good shape to lay on the feast.

“We believe that we are on the right track,” added Canayer. “We believe that we will be ready when the time comes to ensure that these Olympic and Paralympic Games are a true celebration of sport and that the major risks, whether terrorist, cyber, drone, chemical or nuclear are anticipated as far as possible.”

France was put on its highest state of alert following Islamic State's attack on a concert hall just outside Moscow last month which left 144 dead and hundreds wounded. And the vigilance is likely to remain at least until the end of the Paralympic Games in Paris on 8 September as politicians and organisers concede it is impossible to guarantee total security.

"We take a positive view of everything that has been achieved," added de La Gontrie. "We have noted the very strong investment of all the state and local authority structures."

And yet for all the assertions of diligence, dynamism, confidence and rigour, a Star Wars leitmotiv will overhang the Games – hope.