French authorities filed preliminary terrorism charges against an 18-year-old Chechen man accused of plotting an attack targeting spectators at the upcoming Paris Olympics. This is the first known plot against the Games, scheduled to start in eight weeks, with France currently on its highest threat alert level.

The suspect, who remains unidentified, was planning a “violent action” inspired by the Islamic State group’s jihadist ideology, according to the national counterterrorism prosecutor’s office. He was detained on May 22 by the General Directorate of Internal Security, with investigators revealing he aimed to target the Geoffroy-Guichard stadium in Saint-Étienne, a venue set to host several soccer matches during the Summer Games. The attack was intended to target both spectators and police forces, with the suspect reportedly seeking martyrdom.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin emphasized the significance of this foiled plot, showing the persistent threats faced by France in the run-up to the Olympics and Paralympics, events expected to draw millions of visitors. Darmanin noted that, besides Islamic extremist groups, other potential threats include violent environmental activists, far-right groups and cyberattacks from adversaries like Russia.

The Paris Olympics organizing committee acknowledged the arrest and praised the efforts of intelligence and security services. “Security is the highest priority of Paris 2024. We are working daily in close coordination with the Interior Ministry and all stakeholders—and will continue to be fully mobilized,” the committee said in a statement.

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The heightened security concerns are particularly acute for the opening ceremony on July 26, which will see more than 100 world leaders gather in Paris. Initially planned as an open-air parade with boats carrying athletes along the Seine River and an anticipated 600,000 spectators, the number of attendees has been scaled back to around 300,000 due to security and logistical challenges. President Emmanuel Macron has even suggested relocating the ceremony to the national stadium if the threat level remains too high.

In line with security measures, tourists will no longer have free access to the opening ceremony; instead, attendance will be by invitation only. Extra security is also being deployed for the Olympic torch relay, which recently passed through Mont-Saint-Michel, a popular tourist destination.

This incident underscores the ongoing security challenges facing the Paris Olympics, highlighting the critical need for robust measures to protect athletes, spectators, and dignitaries. The thwarted plot serves as a stark reminder of the vigilance required to ensure the safety of one of the world’s most significant sporting events.

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