The Le Bataclan and Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks in Paris last year have put the city of Cannes on alert ahead of major events that will see masses descend on the Croisette in the coming months.
Last week the city underwent a simulated terrorist attack, involving fake car bombs, 200 extras, police, firefighters and doctors, in an effort to test security respondents ahead of the 69th Cannes International Film Festival in May, according to the Hollywood Reporter. News of the drill has already started to unnerve the film fest's attendees. Representatives of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity said its organizers were part of the exercise, in preparation for what's arguably the ad industry's biggest yearly gathering.
According to Phil Thomas, CEO of the Lions Festivals, 2016 has seen a big step-up in security measures. "This is the first time that an exercise like this has been undertaken by the City of Cannes," he told Ad Age.
But terrorist threats or not, security is always a key priority, he said. "There's a continuous dialogue between ourselves, the mayor and the city of Cannes to ensure that the festival is a safe, secure environment every year. When the terror threat across Europe increased last year, the city reviewed measures for all the large-scale events it hosts, including ours, and appointed security advisers to work alongside local, regional and national police. The recent exercise is an example of their preparations, which we continue to be involved in, whilst also working with our own full-time security adviser."
Cannes Lions organizers were there to observe the simulation and take part in the debrief, but did not participate directly in the drill, Mr. Thomas said.
In 2015, more than 15,000 delegates attended the Cannes Lions. The festival expects a similar number to participate this year.
According to photographer Klaus Lucka, a resident of Cannes who regularly attends the Lions, security has clearly stepped up around town.
"There's a lot of French Army presence in Cannes," he said. "Usually, they're in groups of four, all over Cannes, a lot at the train station. The army presence is the highest I have ever seen, each one with a machine gun. The police never used to carry handguns in holsters, but each one does now. On Sunday I noticed police checking our cars and drivers on the Croisette near the Palais, without asking for IDs, just looking at the drivers and passengers."
Regarding precautionary measures that this year's delegates should take for this year's Lions event, Mr. Thomas said, "It's important to remember that there's no specific increased threat to the city or the festival right now, and there are no additional measures delegates need to take at this stage. We ask that they stay informed and visit the Cannes Lions website for the latest updates. Be assured that we'll share any developments immediately, and know that the safety and well-being of the festival and community is, and always has been, our greatest priority."