Sports requires quick decision making based on bits of quickly changing information. Faced with a carefully planned and grotesquely violent attack on the French National Stadium on Friday the thirteenth, the stadium’s security team was able to do this and avert a catastrophe. None of the three suicide bombers was able to enter the stadium, all three terrorists died and to date, only one other fatality was reported. Others, including security personnel, are recovering from injuries. But the scale of fatalities and violence in the other Friday the thirteenth terror attacks will make good security programs essential for the future.
According to initial reports, one innocent bystander, a Portuguese taxi driver named Manuel Dias, was killed when one of the French National Stadium suicide bombers exploded his vest bomb. This is a tragedy, but effective planning and implementation by the private security firm which managed security for the event averted tragedy on a much larger scale. According to the Wall Street Journal, a security guard frisked an assailant and found a vest packed with explosives and denied entry to the terrorist, who had a ticket to the game. The would-be terrorist then set off an explosion, killing himself and injuring some security personnel. Two fellow terrorists also killed themselves, setting off large explosions, which were heard both in the stadium and on the audio feed to television and radio audiences.
The match was one of the most important FIFA men’s exhibitions matches of this year. The world champion German National Team played the French National Team, which won 2-0. Team managers made the decision to continue the match in its entirety despite the challenges of a bomb threat at the hotel of the German National Team and the complexities of guiding tens of thousands of spectators out of the stadium on a safely guarded route. The plan to direct the spectators through one route worked. Another plan to secure the safety of the players was improvised. Mattresses were brought in for the players and staff of the German National Team to camp out at the stadium and the members of the French National Team stayed with them to show solidarity.
Following the foiled attack, sports organizations around the world demonstrated a global team spirit to honor the many professionals who are helping to deal with these tragedies and the continuing threat of terror attacks. The Los Angeles Kings illuminated the ice rink with the Blue-White-Red tricolor of the French flag and other NHL teams also projected patriotic images. The NBA used stadium big screens to honor the resilience of Paris. The Swedish and Danish national soccer teams included a minute of silence tribute before their Euro 2016 qualifying match, a tribute also followed by the professional leagues in Mexico. The International Olympic Committee responded within hours of the attacks with a statement of support: “The IOC condemns these barbaric and cowardly acts. This is not only an attack on the people of France and Paris, this is an attack on humanity and all humanitarian and Olympic Values. We stand united with all people from all around the globe.”
UEFA is also unwavering in its support. The 2016 European soccer championships are scheduled to be played in stadiums throughout France. The French National Stadium will also host the final match. Euro 2016 President Jacques Lambert confirmed in a television interview with broadcaster RTL that the schedule for the 2016 European soccer championships in France will continue as planned. Tickets for the events went on sale last June and are almost completely sold out.
Ticket holders for events that have been postponed or cancelled because of the official State of Emergency declared in France will need to research the details of the cancellation policies. Standard e-mails sent to ticket holders pledge that the tickets will be valid for a future event after the date and venue can be secured and that patrons who cannot attend at that time can apply for a refund.
Such event management challenges are complicated, but once again, a picture is worth a thousand words. This picture shows how a careless passenger on the express coach to the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport thought nothing of ignoring the posted directions not to block an emergency exit with baggage. It also shows how easy it is for another careless passenger to trip someone who might try to correct the error. Travelers with bad manners are a worldwide phenomenon in no way limited to Paris, but as terrorism escalates globally, it is everyone’s responsibility to speak up and make sure that emergency exits are secure and security guidelines are respected.