Have you heard about the 24h vélo de Louvain-la-Neuve? If not, a quick reminder could be useful: Louvain-la-Neuve is a major student city in Belgium, about 30 minutes away by train from Brussels; it is focused on studies and student life, and many young people live there. As a normal student place, many (and massive!) usually take place. The 24h vélo is a significant and traditional bike-event that takes place every year in Louvain-la-Neuve. The students, of course, ride their customized bike but they obviously drink and party a lot too. The ride is therefore a major student event in Belgium and thousands of people gather there every October.
Last year, while terrorist attacks had taken place some months before, the student organisation that manages the event decided to cancel it, as high security infrastructures and systems were required to make sure nothing wrong could happen that day and the budget did not reach a sufficient level.
This year, on the 25th and 26th of October, the 40th edition will take place in Louvain-la-Neuve. The organisers achieved to get public funds, and the budget will reach about €170,000-200,000 (compared with €100,000 the years before). They will get a financial support from both Wallonia and the Walloon Brabant. Besides policemen, private security companies will be employed, security checkpoints will be set up across the city and the concert places. To make the event as safe as possible, the participants cannot access the 24h with a bag.
If you only think about security, it does seem like a good solution, as provoking an attack is probably harder if the security system and infrastructures are stronger. But considering all the events hosted in Brussels or in Belgium, it still can be an issue. As mentioned before, the organisers could not organize the 24h last year as the budget was not enough to make this event properly “safe”. Does that mean that only rich organizations could set up cultural events in the future? Although the 24h ride got public funds this year, all the events will not receive such a support, as public finances are limited. It could also involve an imbalance between supported events and non-supported events, which could be political-based.
It is also about the way you live on your daily basis. Do you prefer being “100% safe”, surrounded by dozens of policemen, soldiers and security officers, passing over multiple security checks? As some recent attacks were caused by cars or trucks, some cities across Europe decided to set up some studs or barriers in strategic points. Is this solution viable in the future? Do the European and Belgian cities have to completely change because of some attacks?
Security vs. Freedom is a massive modern challenge and no political leader has probably found the perfect solution yet. As the mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, said recently “absolute security is impossible”. It is all about the way the leaders and citizens imagine their future.