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Bag Stolen on Train in Paris Did Not Contain Sensitive Olympics Security Info: Authorities

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Updated: | Originally published:

While petty thefts are not uncommon on public transport in Paris, it would seem far-fetched that a bag robbery could upend a major international sporting event. But France faced such a fear earlier this week, after a bag was reportedly stolen on a train in the nation’s capital on Monday that was initially said to have contained security plans for the Paris Olympics that’s just months away.

Broadcast network BFMTV reported that a 56-year-old engineer working in the Paris City Hall reported to police that his bag had been stolen after he had just boarded a train leaving for Creil from the Gare du Nord station in Paris, around 6:30 p.m. local time, Monday evening. 

In his report to police, the engineer reportedly explained that he had placed his bag in a compartment above his seat. But as he was preparing to change trains due to a delay, he noticed his bag was gone. The bag contained the engineer’s professional computer and two USB sticks that contain “sensitive” data, according to BFMTV, namely Paris City Hall’s security plans for the Olympics, which includes the deployment of some 2,000 municipal police officers.

Police referred questions by TIME on Tuesday to the Paris prosecutor’s office, which confirmed the theft via a statement but said that the stolen technology does not contain sensitive elements but rather only “notes related to traffic during the Olympic Games.”

In an official statement released to the public on Wednesday, Paris City Hall reiterated that the internal information on the stolen technology was related to the “IT mission of the roads and travel department” and said that the victim “was not in possession of any information relating to the organization and deployment of law enforcement.” It added: “All necessary resets have been carried out to cut off all access to the City computer systems.”

Regional transport police are now investigating the crime, using CCTV footage, and, at the request of the mayor, the Paris general inspectorate is investigating the breach of internal security procedures.

The International Olympic Committee expressed confidence in January in how French authorities would keep the 2024 Olympics, which kick off on July 26, safe with an “extensive security plan.”

Fearing attacks on crowded areas during the upcoming summer games, especially after Paris was home to a string of terrorist incidents that killed at least 130 people across the city in 2015 and violent riots sparked by social and economic concerns during the last couple years, security protocols have been ramped up, including controversial plans for stringent checkpoints and the deployment of tens of thousands of security staff, both public and private.

In preparation, organizers including the French government, IOC, and partner companies allocated a budget of 320 million euros (about $350 million) for security. Some 45,000 security staff are set to be deployed on the first day—which is expected to see as many as 600,000 spectators gather in the capital to watch boats carrying athletes through the river Seine for the first Olympics opening ceremony held outside a sports stadium. After that, 35,000 security staff are set to be deployed throughout Paris during the following days of the tournament, which runs until August 11.

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