A City Scarred by Terrorism Prepares an Olympic Opening Without Walls

A terrorist attack of 2015 that left her city angry and heartbroken persuaded Paris’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, to campaign for the Olympic Games.

“I said to myself, ‘We need to do something that is unifying,’” she said in an interview this month, remembering the horrifying afternoon when masked gunmen charged into the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and opened fire that January, killing 12. “Something that is very powerful, very peaceful and allows us to move forward. So, I threw myself into it.”

Nine years later, the Summer Olympics are set to open in Paris in July with France at its highest level of terrorism alert, after the attack on the Moscow concert hall last month. Yet for the first time, the opening ceremony will not be held inside the barricaded confines of a stadium. Instead, athletes will float in boats down the Seine River through the heart of the dense, ancient city before half a million spectators packed into stands and leaning out of windows.

Soldiers will check the boats that bring athletes down the Seine River during the opening ceremony.Credit…Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times

Although some say that makes the ceremony an obvious target, Ms. Hidalgo and other government officials express full confidence in their safety plan.

“The best response is to do it, but to do it seriously and professionally,” the mayor said, adding, “If we don’t do it because we’re afraid, than they’ve won. And they didn’t win.”

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