London Marathoners Won’t Quit as Sports Review Security Plan
Law enforcement authorities in London are continuing their review of security plans for the 26.2-mile (42-kilometer) race from Blackheath in south London to near Buckingham Palace, two days after a pair of bombs went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. An 8-year-old boy was among those killed.
Organizers confirmed the April 21 London race, with 37,000 entrants, will be held. Runners including Alice Pedder, a 28- year-old attorney at Travers Smith law firm in London, say they’re comfortable with the city’s record in stopping attacks.
“It is impossible to police 26 miles of a city completely,” said Pedder, who has run as many as 40 miles a week during one of London’s coldest winters to prepare. “It makes you want to run even more. It’s privilege, and if people are going to try and stop people doing something so amazing then you’ve got to do it all the more, and not let people who want to blow up things stop you.”
London’s experience with terror attacks from religious extremists and Irish nationalists and successfully guarding the 2012 Olympics gives the city an advantage in preparing for big sporting events, said Jennifer Cole, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London. No increase in officers or closed circuit television cameras can stop all attacks, she added.
“You can never have 100 percent security,” Cole said. “There are only so many numbers of CCTV cameras that you can have alongside the route, there are only so many numbers of police and security analysts that you can put onto looking for information about any potential threats. Everything that can be done is being done, but you will never get to a point of zero threat.”
Mark Novak, president and chief operating officer of New York-based Global Security Group, said there are a number of precautions organizers can take for a lengthy course, such as a marathon or motorcade route. They include sealing mail boxes along the route, removing nearby trash cans, increasing the number of people on patrol and limiting obvious hiding spots.
“It’s problematic because the nature of a marathon is that you have all these runners discarding bags, discarding clothes along the route,” Novak said in a telephone interview. “It’s a huge challenge and I don’t envy them, quite honestly.”
Harvey Schiller, chief executive of New York-based GlobalOptions Group Inc. (GLOI), which provides high-end security to companies, governmental organizations and individuals, said yesterday that extra measures come with a cost.
“These incidents -- you learn from each one and you start to put things in place that you didn’t before,” Schiller said. “Each one leads to another level of security, which takes away more freedom.”
No one had claimed responsibility for the bombings at the 116-year-old Boston race, and police said they had no suspects or motive.
The London Marathon will conduct registration today as planned, while organizers meet with the Metropolitan Police. Race officials announced there will be a 30-second moment of silence before each of the three starts, and runners will be given black ribbons to wear when they pick up their numbers.
“We are determined to deliver an amazing event that will focus on one of the core pillars of the London Marathon, which is ‘to have fun and provide some happiness and a sense of achievement in a troubled world,’” race director Hugh Brasher said in a statement.
Darren Yarlett, an operations manager at equities broker Redburn Partners, said he’s used to living with the idea of a possible terrorist threat because he was born and raised in London.
“The bottom line is, if someone wants to do something bad, then they will,” said Yarlett, 31. “But I feel safe.”
Runner Lucy Land has confidence in security arrangements, although she said the race will feel different.
“There is something very exciting and unique about competing with elite marathon runners,” said Land, a 40-year- old founder of clothing company Zulucow in Dulverton in southwest England. “I am sure it’s all going to be fine, but what happened in Boston will be at the back of your mind now.”
Sporting events worldwide are looking to increase security after the bombing in Massachusetts.
Organizers of the 2014 Super Bowl, to be played in MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, in February, said security already is so tight after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, that the bombings probably won’t change anything, said Wayne Hasenbalg, president and chief executive of the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority.
“It’s obvious that security issues in this new world, with the reality of what happened over a decade ago and what happened yesterday, have to be one of the primary components of any planning for any big event,” Hasenbalg said yesterday in a telephone interview.
The authority, designated to coordinate New Jersey’s role in hosting the National Football League’s championship game, had a previously scheduled meeting yesterday with host committee Chief Executive Al Kelly to discuss security.
Securing events in a stadium or arena -- with limited entry and exit points -- is easier than at more open venues, said Dennis Robinson, chief operations officer of Port Imperial Racing Associates LLC, which is staging a Formula 1 race next year in Weehawken and West New York, New Jersey.
“We’re trying to operate this as close to a bricks-and- mortar venue as possible, utilizing many of the same policies and procedures such as bag checks and sweeps, that takes place at fixed venues,” Robinson said in an interview. “The difference is our primary area will be spread over a mile and a half.”
He said security procedures lay the foundation for everything involved in event planning.
“Everything flows from that -- how you lay out your facility, how you staff your facility, where you put your guests,” he said. “Everything flows based upon public safety.”
In Brazil, where soccer’s World Cup will be held next year and the Olympics in 2016, security officials said they hope to learn from the bombings in the U.S. The country is expecting 600,000 foreign visitors for the soccer tournament, which runs from June 12 to July 13, 2014.
“We’re following very closely what happened in Boston,” Jose Monteiro, director of operations of Brazil’s special secretariat of safety for major events said by telephone from Brasilia yesterday. “As an experience, it is rather useful to reinforce that we’re doing things right, that we’re preparing for any possible attack or incident.”
Continuing to hold and participate in large venues is a way to resist efforts of terrorists to weaken public resolve, Cole said.
“Being able to show that we are able to stand up to that kind of threat is far more important than to show we are afraid of it,” said Cole, of the Royal United Services Institute, a London-based research group specializing in defense and security research. “We cannot be frightened into changing so significantly that we get to a zero-tolerance situation.”