Olympic Torch Security Drill

Olympic Torch Security Drill
Olympic Torch Security Drill

French police tested their security plans for the Olympic torch relay, with a multi-layered ring of 100 officers set to be deployed to keep protesters at bay.

Authorities are nervous about the potential for disruption of the relay, which will begin once the flame arrives in southern Marseille on May 8 ahead of the start of the Games on July 26.

Environmental groups such as Extinction Rebellion, anarchist networks or pro-Palestinian demonstrators are seen as potential risks, while the security forces remain on high alert for terror attacks.

"For the party to be beautiful, it needs to be safe," said chief Games organizer Tony Estanguet during the drill in the Aube area southeast of Paris that saw officers in plain-clothes jog alongside the torch bearer.

Anti-terror and riot police in vehicles as well as anti-drone specialists will be permanently but discreetly deployed as the torch moves around.

The Olympic flame is set to travel through 400 towns and dozens of tourist attractions during its 12,000-kilometer journey through mainland France and overseas French territories in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Pacific.

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin is desperate to avoid a repetition of the chaotic scenes in 2008 during the torch relay ahead of the Beijing Olympics which traveled through multiple countries.

French authorities had to repeatedly extinguish the flame and ended up cutting the relay through Paris because of protests by pro-Tibet activists and critics of China's human rights record.

Speaking in January, Darmanin likened this year's relay to the annual Tour de France bicycle race but "with more originality and difficulties".

The flame will be lit in Olympia in Greece, then brought by boat to Marseille in a three-masted 19th-century French tall ship called the Belum.