KEIR RADNEDGE in PARIS —- Organisers of the European Championship began the Herculeaen task of trying to swing the focus for the next four weeks away from security and back to the football.
The run-up to Euro 2016 in France has been nightmarish for organising president Jacques Lambert and chief executive Martin Kallen after a flood of crisis over which, as both conceded, they had little ability to control.
Security became an inevitable headline issue after the co-ordinated terror assaults in Paris last November when 130 people died. But for the quick thinking of a steward one of the attacks would have brought mayhem to the France v Germany friendly match at the Stade de France.
The national stadium remains at the forefront of concerns since it will host the Euro 2016 opener between the hosts and Romania on Friday. But Lambert and Kallen believe everything they can do in organisational terms has been accomplished.
Not that they are trying to minimise the context with security concerns exacerbated by misery of heavy rain and flooding plus political protest strikes affecting air and rail transport as well as the operation of oil refineries and waste plants.
Lambert said: “No-one is unaware of what has gone on in France and in Europe with regard to security over the last few months. We have had to deal with this context imposed upon us while remaining focused on our goal of bringing together the best possible European Championship from every aspect, including security.
“Our aim was to avoid being knocked off course by external circumstances that we could not control so we had to revise a number of our plans and stiffen our security measures, working with the government to have the most professional and effective security measures possible.
“But we really wanted to maintain all the other dimensions of the event to try move out of this negative spiral in which we have found ourselves. It hasn’t been easy but we have really worked hard to give you the best organised European Championship.”
Kallen appealed for fans to make sure they come to the stadia early because of the double ring of security being established. He said: “There will be enough entertainment at the stadia and the fans at the later matches can watch the earlier games on the giant screens.”
Gates will be opened three hours before scheduled kickoffs and the fan zones – under question at one stage – will be subject to similar security vigilance.
Kallen even reported that the weather forecast was brighter so he hoped the sun would be shining on Euro 2016.
Doubtless in more ways than one.
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