Thursday 27 October 2016

Euro finals to stay in France

People stand for a minute of silence outside the Stade de France stadium in Saint Denis, outside Paris, yesterday
People stand for a minute of silence outside the Stade de France stadium in Saint Denis, outside Paris, yesterday

The deadly terrorist attacks in Paris haven't shaken the resolve of the Euro 2016 organizers, who said that the biggest international soccer competition after the World Cup will remain in France.

The final draw will go ahead as scheduled on December 12 at the Palais des Congres in Paris and the final tournament will be played in France June 10-July 10, UEFA said in a statement Monday.

The Stade de France stadium, which will host the final match, was one of the venues targeted in the attacks Friday night, which claimed at least 129 lives. Next year's tournament will be the biggest, with 24 teams vying to become Europe's best. Matches will be played across France in 10 locations. The last event, jointly held in Ukraine and Poland, featured 16 teams.

"Following the dramatic events that occurred last Friday in Paris, UEFA and Euro 2016 SAS wish to reaffirm their commitment in placing safety and security at the center of their organizational plans," UEFA said in the statement. "While there is no reason to believe that the Euro might become the target of any attack, the potential terrorist threat has always been taken into account, since the beginning of the project."

French President Francois Hollande was present at the game between France and World Cup champion Germany when two suicide bombers detonated explosive vests within minutes of one another. The sound could be clearly heard inside the packed arena. Hollande was evacuated while the game continued.

One of the bombers tried to enter the stadium with a ticket, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal citing security officials. The stadium was put on lock-down to prevent a stampede and both teams spent the night in the arena.

For Chris Eaton, head of security at the 2010 World Cup for FIFA, soccer's global governing body, the actions of staff at Stade de France showed that long-established security plans are working. The death toll would have been far higher if the bombers had gained access to the arena, he said.

"What happened in the Stade de France was a success, not a failure," Eaton in a phone interview.

"The reaction of the security line prevented the plan that was in place by the terrorists who were seeking to gain entry and do what they did outside the stadium," he said, referring to other venues in Paris, including the Bataclan theater, where attackers gained access and shot concert-goers at point blank range.

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