General mobilisation of the security sector for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games

With less than a year to go until the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the security of major events is a huge challenge that will mobilise and unite the entire French security industry. This home straight is the time for the final decisions that are expected to address the major challenges posed by such an event, while at the same time promoting French excellence to the world. Innovation, cooperation, trust and ethics are on the agenda to deliver safe and festive Games.

Interview with Marc Darmon, Chairman of GICAT, Chairman of the CSF « Security Industries », Executive Vice President Thales

Interview by Mélanie Bénard-crozat

General mobilisation

The French security and cybersecurity industry currently generates sales worth €45 billion. With some 160,000 experts and more than 4,000 companies, it is a major exporter. Most of the industry’s added value remains in France, as this sector is hardly offshorable. As soon as France’s bid for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games was validated, we began structuring our industry to be able to respond to the global need (border control, identity management, cybersecurity, video protection, drone control, command centre, etc.). While there are many different players involved, we had to devise a global response that brought together the major groups and the many SMEs in our ecosystem. Once we had a common structure, we issued calls for expressions of interest. Hundreds of companies were involved, and a competitiveness cluster selected around a hundred solutions on a neutral and objective basis. Supported by 5 major players – Thales, Orange, Atos, Airbus and Idemia – and several hundred SMEs, the global response is intended to be as coherent as possible with the acquisitions of the French Ministry of Interior, Paris 2024, various entities with cybersecurity needs and different sites. Today, I would say « mission accomplished » on this aspect. Trials finally took place at the end of 2022 on several dozen major subjects, more than 80% of which involved SMEs, demonstrating the value of these technologies in meeting the challenges and security needs created by such an event.

Excellence takes centre stage

Tony Estanguet has said it many times: French excellence is mobilising all the strengths and energies of our country to showcase France’s finest image and our capacity for innovation. Our security industry is a prime example of this. A sector of excellence, it stands out in cybersecurity, in security where digital technology is predominant, because of the importance of science in France and the high-level we have in mathematics, the hard sciences, algorithms, artificial intelligence and cryptography. There are many issues arising from this, but I can mention the protection against UAV systems — a system that is well ahead of its time — which will be used for the Olympic and Paralympic Games and was previously used for the Rugby World Cup that has just concluded. We are talking about detection, identification, decision and action to be taken (destruction, jamming, interception).

The pressure of time

With less than a year to go to the opening ceremony, the time has come for acquisitions and individual contracts. We sincerely hope that the solutions presented, both French and European, will be chosen to provide security for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, by the various decision-makers and the various contracts that will be initiated, in view of this technological excellence, but also of our level of expertise and our capacity for innovation. We have chosen to unite to handle the security of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games with a strong, united French team that is capable of meeting these major challenges thanks to innovative but tried and tested technologies that promote French excellence. The risk of being overtaken by foreign competition will come above all from the pressure of time. So, we need to speed things up in this final stretch. But each event has its own specific constraints, which need to be considered.

Towards the emergence of a label?

The 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games provide an opportunity to create a French industry benchmark. The major groups that make up the industry have already established their know-how and their position as leaders abroad: Airbus in communications for security forces in Europe, Thales, Atos and Orange in cybersecurity, Idemia and Thales in security, digital identity and secure documents around the world. While it was important for French manufacturers to be present, it is equally important for the authorities to ‘accredit’ us with a label that could be ‘made in France’, validated by the Ministry of Interior, or ‘used at the Olympic and Paralympic Games’. As well as adding value, as we see in areas such as cyber security, these distinctions ultimately represent undeniable competitive advantages and could enable us to develop the export potential of the entire industry.

Points to note

Air traffic control of UAV systems and protection against UAV systems will be very important. Digital identity is also a key issue, as are border protection and control, and of course cyber security. This is an area that requires particular attention, given the protean and ever-growing cyber risk. This involves protection and expertise to detect threats and manage risks, the use of cybersecurity products and solutions (EDR, probes, encryptors, etc.) and also the detect and response dimension, i.e. monitoring the state of security and intervening in the event of a cyberattack. The aim is to adopt a holistic approach covering upstream analysis, protection against cyberattacks and response in the event of a proven attack. And France is now one of the world’s leading countries in this field…

Trust and ethics by design

French companies, both large and small, now have a wealth of expertise in the areas of secure by design and ethical software and applications, trusted clouds, personal data protection and sensitive data. The issues of ethics and trust are at the heart of our concerns and echo the expectations of citizens. This differentiating factor is an additional strength of our industry that we will be keen to put to good use for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which will demonstrate a major social, societal and environmental commitment.

By sharing a common vision and setting common objectives, the industry will rise to the real challenge of delivering safe, festive Games that save public funds. I am certain that this success will illustrate the ability of our security industry to unite its companies and showcase its expertise, thereby contributing to our country’s international reputation.

We have just one objective: to be ready, collectively, for 2024 and for the Games to be held in complete safety!