The first of the 37,500 runners expected to take part in the London Marathon will begin registering for Sunday’s race tomorrow morning after organisers received the full backing of the Metropolitan Police and other authorities for the race to go ahead as planned following a security review.
The organisers have insisted since Monday’s explosions in Boston that left three people dead and more than 100 injured that the London race would take place. After meeting with the police and other city officials, and being given the green light, Nick Bitel, the London Marathon’s chief executive, sought to reassure participants that they will be safe. The organisers do not expect any withdrawals from among the high-class elite field – the Olympic champion Stephen Kiprotich, defending champion Wilson Kipsang and world record-holder Patrick Makau are all scheduled to run, as is the women’s Olympic champion Tiki Gelana – and nor do they expect to see large numbers of amateur runners pulling out. Likewise Mo Farah, who will run half the race, remains fully committed to taking part.
“The support we have been offered by our stakeholders and the wider running community has been outstanding. We have the full support of the Metropolitan Police, the mayor's office and other authorities,” said Bitel. “We want to reassure our runners, spectators, volunteers and everyone connected with the event, that we are doing everything to ensure their safety and that the London Marathon is an outstanding success.”
Policing the 26-mile course around the capital’s streets, with around 500,000 spectators expected to watch the race, is a huge logistical challenge for the Metropolitan Police, although one they are well versed in. As well as previous London Marathons, the Met oversaw last summer’s Olympic marathon. The police and organisers will have further meetings this week following Tuesday’s review. Extra security is likely to be put in place, according to Boris Johnson, the London mayor.
“To have 100 per cent security is very, very difficult if not near impossible," said Helmut Spahn of the International Centre for Sport Security and the man in charge of security for the 2006 World Cup in Germany. “More police, more military is not always the best solution.”
A statement from the race organisers said: “We have reviewed and will continue to review our security arrangements with the Metropolitan Police and other authorities. We are being fully supported in all aspects of the event to safeguard our runners, spectators, volunteers and staff.”
Hugh Robertson, the Sports Minister, gave determined backing to the race going ahead, saying he remains “absolutely confident” that runners and spectators can be kept safe. He said: “The best way for us to react is to push ahead with the marathon, to get people on the streets and to celebrate it as we always do in London - and to send a very clear message that we won't be cowered by this sort of behaviour.
“Sadly, we live with this on day-by-day basis in this country. There has been a terrorism threat every day of my adult life here in London – first through Republicanism then through international terrorism. There are major events in London – if not quite on a daily basis, certainly on a weekly basis. As the minister responsible on a day-to-day basis at the London 2012 Olympics, we lived through this for the past year. I was privileged enough to see the Metropolitan Police, the armed forces, security services and our special forces working on this. I saw them close up - that gives you enormous confidence.”
Robertson also suggested the race should go ahead to “show solidarity with Boston”. He added: “These are balance of judgements 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.”
There are growing moves via social media for runners to cross the finish line with “hands over hearts” in a symbol of solidarity.
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