Boston Marathon Bombings: Race Directors Forced To Reassess Security Measures
Event directors around the world will “face heightened pressure to tighten security at outdoor competitions that draw tens of thousands of spectators” in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, but the task “won’t be easy,” according to Helliker & Barrett of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. Former U.S. Army Delta Force officer Jim Reese, whose security firm, TigerSwan, is preparing a security plan for some Brazilian clients ahead of the ‘14 World Cup in Brazil, said of a marathon, “It’s a soft target, stretched out across 26 miles. It would be very difficult to secure.” Helliker & Barrett note as the “unofficial kickoff of the footracing season in the U.S., the Boston Marathon attracts many race directors who will travel home faced with new security concerns.” Their issue is that “finish-line crowds represent a runner reward for finishing 26.2 miles.” Big Sur Int'l Marathon Dir Doug Thurston, whose race is on April 28, said, “What we face now is a balance between allowing people access to share in such an occasion and keeping people safe” (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/16). Lisa Rainsberger, who in '85 became the last American woman to win the Boston Marathon, said that the effect of the attack “will be felt for years.” Rainsberger: “How do the New York or Chicago marathons move forward without that fear? Every race has to be concerned. I know the race director and some of the board and I can’t imagine how horrible they are feeling right now.” In Colorado Springs, Joe Paisley notes race security is “especially tough because runners have bags of clothes waiting at the finish,” and spectators “often carry backpacks.” Rainsberger: “We need to be prudent but God forbid if everyone has to go through a metal detector. The cost may be too high for the smaller races” (Colorado Springs GAZETTE, 4/16).
ASSESSING THE RISK: In a special to the N.Y. DAILY NEWS, risk mitigation agency Kroll Boston Senior Managing Dir David Holley writes a marathon is “a very difficult event to protect.” Unlike an event at “a stadium or ballpark, ingress and egress cannot effectively be managed.” Marathon viewers “can enter and exit viewing vantage points from side streets, buildings and apartments all along the route.” And, because there are “no official entrances or exits, book bags, knapsacks and other carriers are not examined prior to gaining access to roadside viewing locations” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/16). Runner’s World Contributing Editor Hal Higdon said, “One of the problems is the 26.2-mile course to secure, (that is) almost an unsecurable area. It is one of the risks of urban life in the world today.” He added, “It is a sporting event that anybody can walk up to. I don’t know what changes one would make” (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 4/16). Chicago Area Runners Association Exec Dir Wendy Jaehn, whose organization will put on Saturday's Lakefront 10 Miler, ran in yesterday's race. She said, "Any marathon will now review their security plans. (In Boston), you couldn't get access to where the runners were without clearance to do so. It was very secure for the runners, but no one envisioned anything happening on the spectator side of it" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 4/16).
SECURITY ALWAYS A CONCERN: In Boston, Shira Springer writes the future will “bring tighter security in Boston and at marathons around the world, though security always has been a pressing concern for all marathon organizers.” In addition to “scores of police and public safety officials along the roads" typically at the Boston Marathon, bomb-sniffing dogs will "inspect parts of the route and the start area.” Additionally, well in advance of the race, "BAA officials, race director Dave McGillivray, and public safety officials meet to review security plans and emergency contingencies.” However, an event run on open roads like the marathon “presents challenges from many angles, as do all large-scale sporting events.” U.S. runner Meb Keflezighi competed in the marathon at the '04 Athens Games "when a crazed spectator attacked leader Vanderlei de Lima at the 35K mark.” Keflezighi said, “Ever since de Lima from Brazil got attacked, I’m fearful that when I’m running with my USA jersey some lunatic like that can do something stupid with a gun” (BOSTON GLOBE, 4/16).
TIGHTENED SECURITY IN PITTSBURGH: In Pittsburgh, Amy McConnell Schaarsmith notes organizers of the Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon even before yesterday’s explosions had “planned tight security for the city's May 5 race.” But race Exec Dir Patrice Matamoros said that organizers and emergency officials after the attack “plan to take another look at their safety measures and potentially add security measures such as additional bomb sweeps.” The race is “expected to draw nearly 28,000 runners and between 30,000 and 50,000 spectators.” Pittsburgh Deputy Emergency Management Dir Ray Demichiei “declined to say exactly what changes might be made but said Pittsburgh's marathon security will be ‘the No. 1 issue on the agenda’ at this morning's regularly scheduled public safety chiefs' meeting.” Matamoros said that the race route is “checked for suspicious-looking objects on race week and in the early morning immediately before the race.” A team of bike riders during the race “looks again for anything suspicious or unusual along the route, which is also lined with numerous surveillance cameras.” She added that a “bomb squad with a bomb-sniffing dog inspects people at the start line.” Runners must “check any gear, and the area around the start and finish lines is fenced to exclude anyone without” an appropriately numbered race bib. Matamoros said that race organizers for the first time “also have ordered 12,000 linear feet of 6-foot chain link fencing to control crowds that gather at especially packed ‘choke points’” (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 4/16). Also in Pittsburgh, Margaret Harding notes a bomb scare disrupted the ’10 Pittsburgh half marathon when a microwave was “found on the sidewalk ... blocks from the finish line.” Police “rerouted the race and called the bomb squad.” Matamoros: “Since then, we've been really trying to prepare extensively and put measures in place to protect and keep people safe” (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 4/16).