French military plans 15,000 soldiers for Paris Olympics security

PARIS -- France's military plans to contribute 15,000 soldiers to the massive security operation for next year's Paris Olympics, an army general involved in the preparations said Thursday.

The bulk of the force -- nearly 10,000 troops -- will be deployed in the Paris region, where most Olympic events will be concentrated, said Gen. Christophe Abad, the military governor of Paris who serves as military adviser to the French capital's police chief.

Military forces will also be employed for the games as far as 15,000 kilometers (nearly 10,000 miles) away in Tahiti, where navy vessels will safeguard the venue for Olympic surfing.

In Paris, a temporary military camp for 5,000 troops will be set up in a park in the southeast of the capital, putting the force close to the city's Olympic sites, Abad said.

The security operation for the July 26 to Aug. 11 Olympics, and the Paralympic Games that follow, is unprecedented in scale for France. Tens of thousands of police officers and private security staff are also being deployed. New legislation has also allowed the temporary use next year of cameras combined with artificial intelligence software to scan for security problems. Critics fear the Olympic security will erode privacy and civil liberties permanently.

In the skies, the French military is also planning to deploy Reaper surveillance drones and AWACS airspace-monitoring planes, fighter jets, airborne refueling planes and helicopters that can carry sharpshooters and equipment to disable drones.

The military force of 15,000 nationwide will incorporate 7,000 troops already deployed on antiterrorism patrols at transport hubs and other busy or sensitive sites, including places of worship, Abad said. The military could also be called upon to contribute additional troops if Paris Games organizers fall short in their efforts to recruit more private security staff.

The military's Olympic preparations include training exercises to hone its readiness for potential crises during the games. Abad said that during war games this month, he and other officials tested their capabilities for dealing with a terrorist threat, a plane crash, an attack using drones, a severe heat wave and a chemical spill.