Boston Marathon Bombings: Race Directors Grapple With Security Concerns
The Boston Marathon bombings have “already raised a chilling and perhaps unanswerable question for organizers of other major road races: how to better police events that can include tens of thousands of runners and millions of spectators spread across miles of roads,” according to Ken Belson of the N.Y. TIMES. It is “all but impossible to control every corner of a racecourse, especially for marathons in cities like Boston, London and New York that wind through and over narrow city streets and bridges, offering places to hide for bombs and snipers.” But security experts said that the police “can secure the most vulnerable parts of a course, including the start and finish lines and grandstands, to ward off would-be attackers, and use searches, bomb-sniffing dogs and other techniques to minimize the risks elsewhere.” Race organizers, the police and security experts “will have just days to prepare for their next major challenge, marathons in London and Hamburg, Germany, which will be run Sunday.” Hamburg Marathon CEO Frank Thaleiser said that 400 police officers "would be on duty guarding the 15,300 runners and diverting traffic.” U.K. Sports Minister Hugh Robertson said that he was “absolutely confident the course could be protected.” Security experts expect police "to add security near the most susceptible parts” of the N.Y. Marathon course, including “the starting line at the foot of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in Staten Island and the finish line in Central Park.” Spectators also could “see more random searches and displays of force by the police to keep would-be attackers off guard.” N.Y. police will “face their first test this weekend when two smaller races will be run in Manhattan, including the 9/11 Memorial 5K in Lower Manhattan and a four-mile run in Central Park” (N.Y. TIMES, 4/17).
INSURING THE RISKS: The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Kevin Helliker writes “high among the list of concerns” for Road Runners Club of American Exec Dir Jean Knaack is “whether race-insurance policies will cover bombings of the sort that struck Boston's marathon.” Organizers of many races “obtain insurance through RRCA, although the Boston Marathon acquires insurance independently.” Knaack said, “Terrorism insurance is almost cost prohibitive." Helliker notes another big concern of race execs is “how to go about bolstering security if ‘bolstering security’ means trying to screen tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of spectators lining a 26.2-mile course.” Former elite marathon runner and coach Alberto Salazar said, "How do you secure a marathon now? It could be that a mile from the finish, you need more surveillance, but I don't know what the answer will be" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/17). Toronto police said that they have “no plans to bring in additional officers" for the city's marathon in May despite Monday’s bombing. GoodLife Fitness Marathon Race Dir Jay Glassman yesterday said, “Our venue is 42 kilometres long … and it’s just not feasible to lock down that entire venue. You’re talking about the entire city” (TORONTO STAR, 4/17).
DIFFICULT SITUATION: The Boston Globe's Bob Ryan noted making the entire length of a marathon course completely secure will be a "very, very difficult situation for the authorities to confront.” Ryan: "You can’t police 26 miles, and that’s before we even get into the discussion about the immediate area and the commerce that goes on. It’s not anything that can be cordoned off" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 4/16). Greater Boston Track Club coach Tom Derderian said, "This is a 26-mile foot race. With both sides of the street, that's 52 miles to secure. How? You can't have everyone go through metal detectors." Marine Corps Marathon Race Dir Rick Nealis said, "In stadiums, turnstiles, hardened buildings, you can control who's going in, and do all the safety checks and have a secure event. On roads, in an open venue, when you take 26.2 miles of open space, it's the beauty of the sport and at the same time, in this day and age, part of the risk assessment. Unless we decide we're going to run around a track in quarter-mile loops hundreds of times" (AP, 4/17).