Olympics-French athletes to get special protection in Sochi

PARIS Thu Jan 30, 2014 4:48am EST

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PARIS Jan 30 (Reuters) - French athletes at the Winter Olympics will be protected by French national police and gendarmerie special operations units in Sochi, the country's sports minister said on Thursday.

Security at the Winter Games is expected to be tight with the potential threat of an attack on Sochi, which lies on the western edge of the mainly Muslim North Caucasus, scene of an insurgency aiming to create an Islamist state.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has put about 37,000 personnel on combat alert but France will still have a tailor-made security in Sochi.

"We have done some preparatory work with our experts and everything has been done to make sure our athletes and fans are safe," sports minister Valerie Fourneyron told daily Le Parisien.

"(Special operations units) GIGN (gendarmerie) and RAID (police) will be at the athletes' side, DGSE (external intelligence agency) will liaise with the Russian authorities.

"There will be maximal vigilance."

France are sending 116 athletes to the Games. (Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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