Elite police squads will guard riders of the Tour de France for the first time in the legendary bike race’s history due to the terrorist threat, reports The Telegraph.
Special operations gendarmes of the GIGN, the equivalent of Britain’s SAS, will be among 23,000 police deployed for the Tour, where they will be stationed along the route, "ready to intervene at any moment if needed," Bernard Cazeneuve, the French interior minister, announced on Tuesday.
The GIGN, or Groupe d'intervention de la Gendarmerie nationale, specialises in counter-terrorism, hostage rescue, protecting government officials and tackling organised crime. It was formed in the wake of the 1972 Munich Olympics "massacre" in which Palestinian terrorists took hostage 11 Israeli athletes who all died in a shootout.
The Tour de France, the world’s premier bike race, takes place from July 2 to 24, and this year covers a route of 3,519 kilometres (2,247 miles).
"Everyone understands that this year the Tour de France is taking place in a particular context," said Mr Cazeneuve, stressing that the "terrorist threat" remains "very high".
France has been in a state of emergency since the November jihadist attacks in Paris that killed 130 people, granting police wider powers of arrest and detention.