London Marathon organizers pledge to keep calm and carry on

City officials say they're watching security closely, but that events in Boston shouldn't dampen enthusiasm for Sunday's event, which is expected to draw 70,000 spectators. 

Alastair Grant/AP
Workers put up fencing in the Mall near Buckingham Palace as preparations begin for the London Marathon, Thursday. The London Marathon will go ahead on Sunday despite security fears in the wake of the bomb blasts in the Boston race that killed at least three people and injured many more.

Runners in Sunday’s London Marathon will wear black ribbons and observe thirty seconds of silence in tribute to the victims of the Boston bombing.

But otherwise, the race will carry on as expected. Organizers said there had not been any noticeable pattern of runners withdrawing from the event after Monday’s attack on the Boston Marathon, which prompted a review of security from the Metropolitan Police and the London mayor’s office. 

“We haven’t noticed anything different from other years," says London Marathon spokeswoman Nicola Okey. "There will be heightened security and we urge everyone to be more vigilant, but we don’t see why Sunday can’t be as successful as previous years.”  

Around 35,500 athletes will take part in the 26.2-mile road race. An estimated 70,000 spectators should also turn out – depending on the finicky English weather.

London Mayor Boris Johnson told the Monitor in a statement that his office was working closely with local police and race organizers to ensure that all needed security was in place to make sure the event would go off smoothly. 

“The London Marathon brings together top-class athletes and enthusiastic amateurs from all over the world in a shared challenge, and their achievements are inspirational," he said. "The best possible response to the horrendous events in Boston this week is for London to turn out and cheer on the many thousands of runners raising millions of pounds for charity.”

Paralympic champion Tanni Grey-Thompson, who competed in 17 London Marathons before retiring from wheelchair racing in 2007, says it is important from both a symbolic and sporting viewpoint that the race go ahead. 

“Call it the ‘Blitz spirit’ or whatever you like, but as long as the security people are happy the race must take place," she says. "We should show them that we won’t be scared and change the way we live our lives." 

What's more, she says, athletes often train for the better part of a year to compete in a marathon, and it would be a great shame to deny them the opportunity to compete on account of a single act of terror. 

Neither the police or Ms. Okey would discuss security plans, but Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says he received assurances from Police Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe that officers had been "double, triple, quadruple checking" arrangements for the race.

John Biggs, London Assembly Member for the constituency of City and East, where a large part of the race is run, says spectators and athletes will be overseen by an increased security presence. 

“There will be more police officers on duty and we have more CCTV cameras per square mile than most places on the planet,” he says. 

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.