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World & Nation

Paris attacks stir fear and defiance among event organizers

Soccer practice security

British police officers on duty at Wembley Stadium in London on Nov. 16, 2015, as French players train on the pitch ahead of their international friendly football match against England.

(Justin Tallis / AFP/Getty Images)

A packed soccer stadium. A sold-out concert hall. Friday night revelers at popular Paris cafes. 

The targets chosen by extremists for Friday night’s terrorist strikes have instilled both fear and defiance among the organizers of sporting, political and cultural events in the French capital and elsewhere. Many are reconsidering the wisdom of drawing crowds to public venues that may be in the gun sights of Islamic State as the militants threaten more attacks.

While caution is the watchword for the more vulnerable public spaces, many players, performers and politicians have boldly announced that their appearances will go on to show the terrorists that they can’t break the spirit of the Western societies they have attacked.

Most prominent among those standing up to the threats of further terrorist strikes were the leaders of the world’s most developed countries. President Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron and the heads of state or government from other members of the Group of 20 met Sunday and Monday in the Turkish coastal city of Antalya.

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Although overshadowed by the carnage in Paris, where Islamic State militants claim responsibility for the attacks that killed 129 people, the G-20 summit provided momentum for a new diplomatic plan hatched in Vienna over the weekend that raises prospects for a negotiated end to Syria’s nearly 5-year-old civil war and a more coordinated effort to eradicate the terrorist networks operating out of the lawless country.

But for every show of strength in the face of potential danger, sponsors of other crowd-drawing events have called for reflection on the risks and consequences of gathering too many people in an open and exposed public space.

Here are some of the planned assemblies and the current thinking on whether they are on or off:

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Soccer stars show resolve to deny a terrorist ‘win’

A European soccer match between France and England at London’s Wembley Stadium is a go for Tuesday, the English Football Assn. decided Monday after organizing tighter security and armed police at the entrance gates. Friday night’s terrorist strikes began with suicide bombings at Stade de France, where the German and French teams were playing, stirring fears that sports arenas are soft targets for terrorists. “The match tomorrow is going to have massive global significance,” association chief executive Martin Glenn told reporters. The teams must play and show solidarity, he said, “to demonstrate that terrorism won’t win.” Prince William and London Mayor Boris Johnson have announced that they will attend.

Nothing soft about the Velvet Revolution

Czech authorities have decided to go forward with public celebrations of the Nov. 17, 1989, Velvet Revolution that freed Czechoslovakia from the communist yoke. Tens of thousands are expected at Wenceslas Square and other baroque landmarks of Prague, where a nonviolent rebellion culminated in an end to one-party rule and Soviet domination. Security has been bolstered at airports, shopping centers, military installations and central Prague venues of the watershed revolt 26 years ago.

A time for respect over rivalry

European Professional Club Rugby announced Monday that all five Challenge Cup and Champion Cup matches scheduled in France next weekend were being postponed “as a mark of respect” for the victims of the Paris attacks. Matches outside France will go on as scheduled but begin with a moment of silence in memory of those killed in Friday’s attacks, the association announced.

An atmosphere of determination

French President Francois Hollande said Monday that a key climate conference in the French capital will convene in spite of the horrific terrorist attacks on Friday. The Nov. 30 gathering of the United Nations Climate Change Conference is expected to draw 50,000 participants to Paris. Hollande said conference had to go ahead “to show that the world must stay united against terrorism.”

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Resilient culture

Paris, one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations, reopened its famous museums and monuments to visitors on Monday after closures dictated by the Friday night violence. The Louvre, the Paris Opera and the Eiffel Tower were back in business three days after the attacks, the latter illuminated in the blue-white-and-red blocks of the tricolor. Cultural monuments worldwide similarly lighted up in the French flag’s colors in solidarity, including Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, the Sydney Opera House and the Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro.

But the music won’t play

Eagles of Death Metal, the California band that was playing at the Bataclan theater in Paris when terrorists infiltrated and randomly shot to death 89 people, has postponed the remaining 21 concert dates of a European tour that was due to run through Dec. 10, its record company, Universal Music, has announced. Scheduled concerts by U2, Foo Fighters, Delftones and Rudimental have also been postponed or canceled. Eagles of Death Metal merchandiser Nick Alexander and three employees of Universal Music France were among the dead at the Bataclan theater.

More caution in protecting the young

The Vatican is reconsidering plans to bring more than 2 million young Roman Catholics to the World Youth Day meeting with Pope Francis in Krakow, Poland, in July. Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow, said Monday that the Catholic hierarchy “is worried because the events in Paris have shown that peace and security in Europe are threatened.” The archbishop expressed the hope, though, that European and U.S. officials can ensure sufficient security by the time of the July 25-31 convocation for the massive event to go on.

Follow @cjwilliamslat for the latest international news 24/7

MORE ON PARIS ATTACKS:

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