Foreign legion 'proud' to provide security at Paris Olympics

The elite French Foreign Legion is preparing for security duty in Paris during this summer’s Olympic Games, a far cry from the group's previous deployments to places like the troubled Sahel region of Africa.

Members of the storied foreign-fighter unit huddle on a military base in southern France, located hundreds of kilometres from Paris' cafe-lined streets where they will deploy in just a few weeks.

"There's no Eiffel Tower, but we're in Paris," says Lieutenant Antoine to the troops gathered around him, who, like all legionnaires, had to change his name upon joining.

Metal barracks stand in today for the gleaming arenas these soldiers will soon be scouring for "suspicious objects" with the help of dogs and drones.

The Foreign Legion, a corps of some 10,000 soldiers founded nearly 195 years ago, is the only French army unit in which foreign nationals can enlist.

They can apply for French nationality after several years of service, or sooner if they distinguish themselves in battle in places like Niger, where they fought against an Islamist insurgency.

But this summer, they are heading to the French capital, where the soldiers will work alongside police as part of the country's heightened security posture during the Games.

Before the search exercise can start, Lieutenant Antoine wants to ensure the legionnaires – whose French is often broken – understand how the operation will be carried out.

"What is a K-9 unit?" he asks in French.


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