France on high alert ahead of Euro 2016 soccer tournament

PARIS -- France is on high alert, with the European Soccer Championship kicking off there on Friday.

It's as if the Super Bowl and World Series were played every night for a month. Two and a half million visitors are expected -- and there is unprecedented security for an unprecedented threat.

Less than seven months ago, ISIS suicide attacks against a Paris soccer game, cafes and a concert ended with 130 dead.

The French government knows ISIS wants to strike again, so it's put the police through anti-terrorist training with mock attacks.

One is being staged in one of the huge so-called fan zones, where thousands will gather to watch the games on big screen TVs -- making a perfect target.

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French soldiers, police and gendarmes are seen during a visit at a fanzone ahead of the UEFA 2016 European Championship in Nice, France, June 8, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard

That's just asking for it, says Denis Broliquier, mayor of the 2nd district in Lyon.

"Why take the risk," he asked, "when all the intelligence services say the threat has never been so great?"

This is the new normal: Soldiers are just part of the scenery at French tourist sites like the Louvre Museum.

Sergeant Jules told CBS News three years ago, he was fighting terrorists in West Africa. If someone had told him he would be patrolling France against terrorism, he wouldn't have believe it.

"Not a chance," he said. "But that's the reality."

In a command center outside Paris, CBS News saw police from across Europe tracking threats to the soccer tournament, a mega-event that France is determined to go ahead with, even though it is a perfect target.

"If we want ISIS to win, we just have to cancel it and say, 'Okay, you won," Jean Francois Martins, Paris' deputy mayor for sport and tourism, told CBS News.

The celebration kicked off Thursday night with a massive free concert beneath the Eiffel Tower. It's the first test for the huge French security operation, with 30 more nerve-wracking days to go.

  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."