London Marathon, next major race, will go on Sunday despite terror threat
By STEVE DOUGLAS AP Sports Writer April 16, 2013 6:24AM
Police officers react to a second explosion at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in Boston, Monday, April 15, 2013. Two explosions shattered the euphoria of the Boston Marathon finish line on Monday, sending authorities out on the course to carry off the injured while the stragglers were rerouted away from the smoking site of the blasts. (AP Photo/The Boston Globe, John Tlumacki)
Determined to put on a show of “solidarity” for Boston, London Marathon organizers will stage their race on Sunday despite the threat of terrorism.
The British capital has long been a top target for terrorists, and concerns have only intensified ahead of Sunday’s race after Monday’s harrowing scenes at the Boston Marathon, where bombs killed three people and injured many more.
However, British sports minister Hugh Robertson said the London Marathon, watched by an estimated 500,000 spectators and run through some of the city’s most recognizable landmarks, should be staged as planned to show “we won’t be cowered by this sort of behavior.”
“The best way for us to react is to push ahead with the marathon on Sunday, to get people on the streets and to celebrate it as we always do in London,” Robertson told the BBC on Tuesday.
“These are balance of judgments but we are absolutely confident here that we can keep the event safe and secure. I think this is one of those incidents where the best way to show solidarity with Boston is to continue and send a very clear message to those responsible.”
Security is being scrutinized after the events in Boston, where two bombs exploded near the finish of the marathon.
“The London Marathon fully expects at this stage ... (to) go ahead as planned on Sunday although we are continuing to review security with the Metropolitan Police in the coming days,” Nick Bitel, chief executive of the London Marathon, said Tuesday in an interview on the race website.
“The London Marathon will be in touch with the runners through their email and they will hear from us on a daily basis in that way. We will try to keep updating our runners throughout this period.”
Mo Farah, who won the long-distance double at the London Olympics, will be running a half marathon while the three medalists from the men’s marathon at the London Games are also among the 37,500 entries.
Sunday’s race is one of six in the world marathon series along with Tokyo, Boston, Berlin, Chicago and New York.
Belgrade is among other cities staging marathons this weekend, with organizer Dejan Nikolic expressing confidence that the race will be safe and a “beautiful running festival.”
“We will do our best so that this year the security level is even higher,” Nikolic said.
In 2005, suicide attacks on the public transport system in the British capital killed 52 people. London and mainland Britain also face a moderate threat from Northern Ireland-related terrorism, according to the government, and a massive security operation was put in place last year to protect the London Olympics.
This year’s Boat Race between English universities Oxford and Cambridge went ahead amid tightened security after a protester jumped into the River Thames last year and narrowly avoided being hit by the oars of the two crews. Royal Marines were stationed along the length of the 4 1/4-mile (nearly 7-kilometer) course.
Police already were preparing a major security operation in London for Wednesday’s ceremonial funeral for former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, an event at St. Paul’s Cathedral that will be attended by Queen Elizabeth II and dignitaries. The plans call for a procession through the streets of London, with Thatcher’s flag-draped coffin to be carried on a horse-drawn carriage.
The funeral’s security plans are expected to be reviewed in light of the bombings at the Boston Marathon, which is held each year on Patriot’s Day.
“It’s particularly ghastly that this should have happened on a day of great national celebration in Boston — on a day when so many families were out on the streets and when so many people were raising millions of dollars for charity. That makes it worse. It’s utterly horrifying and completely appalling,” Robertson said.
“It’s difficult to think of a more ghastly event that this should be perpetrated upon.”