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US Olympics team ‘excited’ by open-air Paris Games parade

US athletes will take part in the opening ceremony of the Paris Olympics on the river Seine, with the American Olympics team “excited” and also confident in French security, a top US official said.

Teams are set to sail down the river through the centre of Paris for the parade at the start of the Games on July 26, the first time the ceremony has taken place outside the main athletics stadium.

Planning security over six kilometres (four miles) of river for the flotilla of boats has been a major headache for organisers and police, with the number of spectators reduced by around half.

“We expect that the security will be up to the standards to make sure that our athletes and everyone in the whole delegation are safe,” Rocky Harris, chief of sport and athlete services for the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), told AFP on Tuesday.

He confirmed that US athletes were planning to board one of the more than hundred boats that are set to be used by sports delegations. 

“We are excited about the opening ceremony. It is really going to showcase Paris and the excitement around the Games,” he added.

Rather than security, “the main concern we had was around athletes standing for seven or eight hours”, he explained. 

Around 300,000 spectators with tickets are set to line the banks of the Seine, according to the latest estimate, with many others expected to watch from balconies and buildings that overlook the waterway.

France was on its highest alert for terror attacks between October and January after a suspected Islamist burst into a school in northern France and stabbed a teacher to death.

The country has been consistently targeted by Islamic extremists over the last decade, while Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza has raised tensions internationally. 

The Israeli Olympic Committee has also endorsed the format of opening parade, saying it will take part. 

Harris was in Paris visiting a renovated sports centre in Eaubonne, northern Paris, that will serve as a training base for the roughly 850 American athletes that are expected for the Olympics from July 26-August 11 and the Paralympics from August 26-September 8.

“We’re very confident that they’re going to be ready in every way,” Harris said when asked about preparations for the Games. 

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