Paris Olympics' Opening Ceremony Is No Longer Open to the Public

Tickets for the momentous July 26 event, along the Seine River, were initially intended for the general public through an open registration.

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James O'Neil/Getty Images

The ground-breaking opening ceremony planned for this summer’s Paris Olympics on the Seine River has been scaled back once again, with the previously announced 600,000 free tickets available to the general public, now being cut in half to about 300,000 by invite-only.

Though tickets for the momentous July 26 event were initially intended for the general public through an open registration, the nation’s Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin announced last week that 104,000 seats on the lower riverbank will be paid tickets, while 222,000 upper banks seats will remain free, but distributed via a quota system, The Associated Press reported. 

“To manage crowd movement, we can’t tell everyone to come,” Darmanin said. “For security reasons that everyone understands, notably the terrorist threat of recent weeks, we are obliged to make it free but contained.” No specific plots have been identified, but there are certainly heightened threats, he noted.

Originally, a major part of the pomp and circumstance was allowing the general public to watch for free from the river banks. But as pressure mounted about both security concerns and sheer logistics, organizers had cut the number of spectators in half, The AP reported in January.

International visitors won’t receive any of the allotted tickets, as they will go to local sports federations; towns and regions hosting events; and other select organizations. While those groups can technically invite foreign travelers as part of their quota, the idea is to allow those smaller town councils to distribute them to “their employees, kids from local soccer clubs and their parents,” the Interior Minister added.

The policy shift may feel like a move to deter travelers from being part of the Games, but Darmanin noted that an additional 200,000 people are expected to watch the procession from riverside buildings, as well as another 50,000 from designated fan zones.

The limited distribution of the tickets is just one of the hurdles Olympic organizers have faced regarding the use of the Seine. Last month, after much controversy, French President Emmanuel Macron vowed that the riverside booksellers — who had been told they’d have to move ahead of the Games — would be allowed to stay in their spots since they are a part of the “living heritage of the capital,” the New York Times reported.

This year's opening ceremony will shatter tradition by being the first held outside of a stadium, right in the heart of the city with 10,500 athletes representing 206 countries sailing through the river on 160 boats along a six-kilometer (3.7-mile) route. 

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