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Dhaka Tribune

London Marathon will go ahead

Update : 18 Apr 2013, 04:42 PM

This Sunday’s London Marathon will go ahead as planned despite two large explosions at Monday’s equivalent event in Boston, killing three people, the British sports minister, Hugh Robertson, has said.

Speaking just 12 hours after the blasts near the finish line in Boston, which also injured more than 100 people, some extremely seriously, Robertson said he was “absolutely confident” the London race, involving about 37,500 competitors, could be held safely.

Asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme if he thought the marathon should go ahead, he replied: “Yes, I do.” Robertson continued: “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.”

The home secretary (interior minister), Theresa May, has been briefed fully about the Boston explosions and held a meeting with the MI5 (the British security service) director-general, Jonathan Evans, and the London Metropolitan police’s (known as the Met’s) assistant commissioner for specialist operations, Cressida Dick.

The current threat level to the UK from international terrorism, set by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC), remains at substantial.

The Metropolitan police are reviewing their security preparations for the event, which organisers have also insisted will go ahead.

Police and London Marathon officials are expected to have a series of discussions about security following the explosions in Boston.

Scotland Yard is waiting for details to emerge from US investigators, such as who is thought to be behind the blasts, as well as information about the bombs’ construction and the types of explosives used. That will help give clues to the question as to whether the Boston explosions were an act of domestic extremists or those inspired by the al-Qaida ideology.

In a brief statement, Chief Superintendent Julia Pendry, in charge of policing the London Marathon, said: “A security plan is in place. We will be reviewing our security arrangements in partnership with London Marathon.”

An estimated 500,000 spectators will line the streets to watch Sunday’s competitors run 26.2 miles from Blackheath, in the south-east of the capital, to the Mall in front of Buckingham Palace, in central London. London Marathon’s chief executive, Nick Bitel, said he had made contact with the police as soon as news of the two explosions at the finish line of the Boston event, which attracts more than 26,000 participants, filtered through. “We are deeply saddened and shocked by the news from Boston. Our immediate thoughts are with the people there and their families,” said Bitel.

“It is a very sad day for athletics and for our friends and colleagues in marathon running.

“Our security plan is developed jointly with the Metropolitan police and we were in contact with them as soon as we heard the news.”

Speaking later to the BBC, Bitel said the London Marathon had “detailed security plans”. He said: “They 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. That is certainly what we are going to be doing in the forthcoming hours and days.” The London mayor, Boris Johnson, said he was shocked by the events at the Boston Marathon, which is the world’s oldest. Johnson said he had spoken to the Met police commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe. Johnson said: “The bombings in Boston are shocking, cowardly and horrific, and the thoughts of all Londoners this morning will be with the victims. Boston is a proud city built on history, tradition and a real sense of community.

“These attacks were aimed at its core, at innocent men, women and children enjoying a spring day out at a major sporting event. We do have robust security measures in place for Sunday’s London Marathon, but given events in Boston it’s only prudent for the police and the organisers of Sunday’s race to re-examine those security arrangements.”

Given the length and nature of the event, securing the Marathon course was one of the biggest fears of the police and organisers ahead of the London Olympics last year. The popularity of mass participation marathons has soared around the world in recent years and in Britain the sport is one of the few to increase the number of people taking part.

Marathon tourism has also taken off, with many keen British runners travelling to Boston, New York, Paris and Tokyo to compete abroad. Entry lists for the Boston marathon showed that 374 British runners had registered to take part. Jez Hughes, a British runner who took part in the Boston event, told Sky News: “We heard a massive explosion. I said to my wife I thought it sounded like a bomb and she thought it was fireworks. Five seconds afterwards there followed another explosion.

Hughes, who finished his race half an hour before the explosion, said: “There was nothing we could do.”

UK Athletics said that none of its elite runners had taken part in the race. Ross Murray, who ran in Sunday’s one-mile invitational event, was said to be “absolutely fine”. All of the elite runners were believed to have finished and were back at their hotel when the blasts happened. By the time the explosions happened, all of those who were finishing would have been fun runners and those completing the course for charity.  

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