In wake of Boston Marathon bombs, London Marathon reviews security

The London Marathon is set for April 21. Officials say the best way to show solidarity after the Boston Marathon attacks is to go forward.

(AP Photo/Sang Tan)
A sign warns of a British police security operation taking place along the forthcoming London Marathon route in London, Tuesday, April 16, 2013. British police are reviewing security plans for Sunday's London Marathon in the wake of the bombings in Boston Monday.

• A daily summary of global reports on security issues.

Organizers of the London Marathon, the world's next major marathon, are reviewing their security measures but promise that the race this Sunday will go on, despite concerns over the attacks on the Boston event, which left at least three people dead and 130 people injured.

Chief Superintendent Julia Pendry, the Metropolitan Police officer in charge of the London Marathon's security, told the BBC that "We will be reviewing our security arrangements in partnership with London Marathon." And London Marathon chief executive Nick Bitel told the BBC that he "fully expected" the event to go ahead as planned.

He said security plans "take account of many contingencies, including this type of threat and incident, but one can't be complacent and when it has happened, you need to then review those plans you have in place to see what else may be necessary."

UK Sports Minister Hugh Robertson, noting that London has experience with major sporting events, including the 2012 Olympics, said that "This is one of those instances where the best way to show solidarity with Boston is to continue."

The two Boston bombs, which exploded four hours and nine minutes into the marathon and 12 seconds apart, turned the 117th version of the city's marathon into chaos, wounding scores of race watchers and blowing out windows within yards of the finish line. The Boston Globe reports that officials called the investigation of the attack "very active and fluid." No one is yet in custody in connection with the attack, and no suspects have been named or claimed responsibility, The Christian Science Monitor reported. 

The city has stepped up security amid the investigation, closing off a mile-long, three-block-wide swath of Boston's Back Bay area, centered on Copley Square, while investigators scour the area for evidence. The Globe reports that National Guard, local SWAT teams, state troopers, and other police forces will remain on patrol in Boston, and will search bags on the MBTA, Boston's public transportation network.

The Boston Marathon explosions highlight the impossibility of completely protecting outdoor sporting events around the globe, the Globe notes. And marathons pose a particularly large challenge, because they sprawl across cities and towns along open roads.

(For a database of international incidents related to marathons, click here.)

“I’ve lost sleep over the fact that you have 52 miles of open roadway, 26 on each side,” said Guy Morse, who served as Boston Marathon race director from 1985-2000 and BAA executive director from 2000-2010. “That’s the way I looked at it. You look at both sides of the road, as well as the course itself. It is impossible to secure it to the extent necessary. So, it has significant ramifications for major events.

“From the Olympics on down, we’re all in the same mode of providing as effective a security net as we can for runners and spectators.”

Mr. Morse worries that increasing security around marathons could undermine the characteristics that give them such an appeal.

“One of many things it could mean is that the public is pushed even further back,” said Morse. “But I don’t want to think about a scenario where you finish marathons in a stadium where no one can get in. This sport is much about the spectators as well as the athletes. It’s a relationship that’s important to the marathon world and marathoning.”

The Associated Press reports that Olympic organizers of the 2016 Games underscored their commitment to security in Rio, and said they "are working very closely with our government partners to deliver safe games in 2016." World Cup organizers in Brazil, which will also host the 2014 soccer tournament, did not comment on the Boston attack.

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