High-security tournament begins in France

A security force of 90,000 police, soldiers and private security agents has been deployed, stringent controls are being carried out outside stadiums and the Interior Ministry has issued a terrorist warning app. Never before has the topic of security dominated the European Football Championship to such an extent. Fear is overshadowing the games, some commentators write with concern. Others urge everyone to make the most of the event.

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Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

A championship dominated by fear

Despite the tight security measures, experts warn of a residual risk at Euro 2016. Fear is overshadowing the games, Corriere del Ticino laments:

“How nice it would be just to talk about football: about the relevance of this championship in which for the first time 24 countries will take part, including Switzerland, after its disappointing absence four years ago; and about the many football stars who will inspire passion, joy and disappointment among their fans. But the tournament that kicks off today is the first championship of fear: a fear that people are trying to dispel in every conceivable way, on the one hand by pretending that everything is perfectly normal - which itself entails risks, as we've seen with the decision not to scrap fan zones - and on the other hand with the stringent security controls, which are essential to thwart any potential terrorist attacks that would have devastating consequences for our Western society.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Terror triumphs even before the kickoff

The Euro 2016 in France is overshadowed not only by the threat of terror but also by widespread defeatism, Lidové noviny laments:

“France hasn't yet lifted the state of emergency imposed after the November attacks but already the security services are warning: if terrorists attack the tournament, we'll stop the games. You can't celebrate football and bury victims at the same time, they point out. True, security people tend to exaggerate the danger in the run-up to an event to avoid accusations that they underestimated the risks. Such defeatism is shocking nonetheless. ... Saying that the games will end in the event of an attack is almost an encouragement to jihadists, who could see it as a sort of invitation. ... It is like capitulating before the games even get started.”

Aamulehti (FI) /

Enjoy football while you can

It's unclear whether there will be more such huge sport events after this year, the Finnish daily Aamulehti remarks ominously:

“In recent times functionaries in top-class sport and especially in the sport business have been at the centre of various corruption scandals. Major sport events are being overshadowed by strikes, terrorism, fear of epidemics and even political crises. But despite it all 2016 is the year of the mega events and one of the most important, the Euro 2016, starts today in France. In little Iceland, for example, that's a big deal. The football fans there should make the most of the European Championship because it may be that in the future it won't make any sense to put on such mammoth games anymore.”

La Libre Belgique (BE) /

At last a bit of fun together

Plagued as they are by worries about the economic and social situation and the fear of terrorism, Euro 2016 will provide Europeans with a welcome distraction, La Libre Belgique observes:

“Let's not hide our joy! Sport - and especially football - has the major advantage of bringing together all those who play it or follow it with passion. Perhaps this is a cliché but there is some truth in it. … Naturally we shouldn't close our eyes to reality: access to the stadiums is blocked for the poor, and athletic skill is not all that is at stake in the games. And the good will towards this championship is not a general pardon for professional football. Nonetheless the competition gives us hope of a welcome break. We must not allow ourselves to be crippled but should all come together for a few hours to share something that is in short supply nowadays: happiness.”

Le Temps (CH) /

Successful championship would do France good

For its host France the Euro 2016 is about much more than football, Le Temps stresses:

“Ever prey to social convulsions and exposed to worldwide ridicule if strikes disrupt the games and infuriate the millions of expected spectators, France is badly in need of a moment of consensus. And what better way to bring it about than football - a popular sport and social phenomenon - and to mend the wounds of a country exhausted by the collapse of its social dialogue? ... A successful championship without major security breaches, logistical chaos and above all attacks would show that faced with obstacles our neighbour, the most visited country in the world, is still able to demonstrate unity and put on the best of all events.”

Berliner Zeitung (DE) /

Europeans believe in football but not in the EU

The Berliner Zeitung anticipates that this will be the last truly "European" football championship:

“Rather than partying it up, Europeans are worried that this may be the last time they can celebrate a football champion as a single political entity. Everyone wants the title but hardly anyone is still willing to place a respectable bet on the political idea that gives the event its name. How strange that the young English team stands a good chance of polishing up the rather dusty image of British football on the pitch, while the fans and voters in the country it represents are seeking to deal a disastrous blow to the idea of Europe.”