CHRISTIAN RADNEDGE in PARIS —- The tension surrounding the dangerous unpredictability of the 2024 Olympics race scaled new levels in Paris on the day when the French city and leaders from rivals Los Angeles and Budapest were formally handing in their bid books to the IOC in Lausanne.
A French soldier shot a man wielding a knife at the Louvre after a turbulent week in which Los Angeles’s confidence had been shaken by United States President Donald Trump’s confused ban on visitors from seven Muslim countries and Budapest had admitted concerns about the level of domestic opposition.
Paris police said that a soldier had opened fire on a man armed with two knives. The 29-year-old Egyptian had apparently wielded a machete and shouted ‘Allahu akhbar’ as he tried to to get into the museum’s basement-level shop with a suitcase.
The soldier fired five shots and seriously injured the attacker, including in the stomach. He was carrying two backpacks, but neither had explosives. One soldier reportedly suffered a scalp wound.
Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said a second person had also been arrested but it was unclear whether that person was linked to the attack.
The incident marred Paris bid organisers’ plans to celebrate the day. Mayor Anne Hidalgo cancelled a morning visit to a school in Saint-Denis where several ‘Sharing Day’ events took place in the presence of other bid leaders.
The sight of armed soldiers on the streets and around public buildings has become a common sight in Paris since the initial hate attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine was followed by the November 2015 incidents in which 130 people were murdered in a single night of violence and then the murderous lorry assault in Nice in July which killed 84 and left more than 400 injured.
French security issues were one of the reasons which led to Los Angeles being considered favourites to win the 2024 vote when it takes place at the International Olympic Committee session in Lima, Peru, in September; the other factor was that LA 2024 had virtually all necessary venues already in place.
That all changed amid the confusion and uncertainty prompted by President Trump’s executive order temporarily shutting out visitors from seven Muslim countries.
However the underlying strength of the bids from both cities has led to increasing speculation that IOC president Thomas Bach might seek a way by which the IOC could award 2024 to Paris and 2028 to Los Angeles.
Eric Garcetti, mayor of Los Angeles and a key figure in the LA 2024 bid committee, has indicated lately that he would not necessarily averse to such an outcome.