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The Eiffel Tower: On alert

Just how safe is Europe's most-recognized monument?

According to Trotignon, there have been no new metal detectors nor security devices since the alerts. “But security guards and police officers are more aware of the threats,” he said. “There might an increased number of guards and officers, but they remain discreet. They don’t want to give the impression that tourists and French people should fear terror attacks.”

Visitors to the tower yesterday seemed relaxed. “I read about alerts in the news back home,” said 26-year-old Ben Cranston from Australia, “but I didn’t pay too much attention. I am not really afraid. What happens, happens. I don’t think it will.”

Su Tong from South Korea echoed that sentiment.

“I am not worried about terrorism,” she said, “but I worry about thieves. There are a lot of people who want to steal your things in Paris.”

Indeed, the tower is littered with signs warning visitors about pickpockets. 

Despite the recent alerts, according to an opinion poll conducted by BVA, 65 percent of the French do not think the risk of terror attacks is higher than it was a few weeks ago, and 59 percent believe the government communicates too much about terror threats. (Germans have also, incidentally, been downplaying recent threats.)

Although France has been the target of deadly terror attacks in the past — eight people were killed after an explosion at the St Michel Metro station in 1995 — the French are not keen on high security measures, according to Trotignon. “It is not like in the U.S. or Israel,” said Trotignon, “where people are willing to go through tight security checks. It is not part of the French culture. Even after the 1995 attacks, French people did not accept the tight security checks and bag searches in the Metro.”

Conveniently, most of those waiting to go through security to climb the Eiffel Tower were from elsewhere.