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Thwarted machete attack clouds Paris 2024 Olympics bid

February 04, 2017 17:04 IST

France has been hit by a series of militant Islamist attacks over the past two years in which more than 230 people have been killed.

IMAGE: The Eiffel Tower is lit in the colours of the Olympic flag during the launch of the international campaign for the Paris bid to host the 2024 Olympic Games, in Paris, on Friday. Photograph: Benoit Tessier/Reuters

Questions about staging a safe and secure Olympics in France were raised on Friday after the Paris 2024 bid suffered an untimely setback when a French soldier wounded a man armed with a machete as he tried to enter the Louvre museum.

Paris submitted its bid to the International Olympic Committee on Friday, a day that culminated with an illuminating launch show at the Eiffel Tower. That was the last in a series of demonstrations which started in the morning at a school in the Seine Saint-Denis suburban area.

Events went ahead as planned despite the Louvre incident, in which police said a man carrying two bags rushed at police and soldiers before being shot near the museum's shopping mall.

The man was alive but seriously wounded after what French President Francois Hollande said appeared to be a terrorist attack.

French Prime Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo strongly backed the bid before the Eiffel Tower was lit in blue and red, unveiling in white letters the slogan "Made For Sharing".

"This morning's incident was a demonstration of how those who protect us everyday act swiftly," said Cazeneuve.

"We have showed, with Euro 2016, our capacity to host a safe event. The terrorist risk is everywhere in the world, the US have also been attacked."

Paris is competing with Los Angeles and Budapest, with the IOC's vote scheduled to take place on September 13 in Lima.

"In this context when every city faces security risks, Paris provides the highest level of protection as was the case this morning," Hidalgo told a news conference at the Musee de l'Homme on the Place du Trocadero.

"Paris is a resilient city who knows how to overcome these challenges."

IMAGE: French police secure the site near the Louvre Pyramid in Paris after a French soldier shot and wounded a man armed with a machete after he tried to enter the Louvre museum. Photograph: Christian Hartmann/Reuters

Bid co-leader Tony Estanguet, who gave France's chances to host the Games a mark of 9 out of 10, said that the results of upcoming presidential and general elections would have no bearing on the bid.

"It is supported at all levels of the French government and across all political lines. Unity behind the project is the force of our bid," he said.

After a promotional film that showed footage of Paris's most famous landmarks, including the Louvre, Cazeneuve said that France would do its best to promote the Olympic values of tolerance and sharing.

"We want to build bridges and not walls," he said.

France has been hit by a series of militant Islamist attacks over the past two years in which more than 230 people have been killed.

The soldier who fired at the machete-wielding man on Friday was from one of the patrolling groups that have become a common sight around Paris since a state of emergency was declared across France in November 2015. It remains in force.

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