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Sport events to go on after Boston blasts

Berlin, April 16, 2013

Deadly bomb blasts that hit the Boston marathon on Monday will not affect the future of city sports events even though full security can never be guaranteed for the thousands of fans, experts said on Tuesday.

Two bombs ripped through the crowd at the finish line of the illustrious race, killing three people, maiming others and injuring more than 100 in what a White House official said would be treated as an "act of terror."

It was the worst bombing on US soil since security was tightened after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and President Barack Obama promised to hunt down whoever was responsible on a day when tens of thousands of spectators packed the streets to watch the world-famous race.

While the incident instantly raised the issue of security at outdoor city events, experts believe it will not affect their future, popularity or revenues.

"To have a 100 per cent security is very, very difficult if not near impossible," said Helmut Spahn, executive director of the International Centre for Sport Security. "There has to be a clear analysis of the situation and certainly no over-reaction.”

"More police, more military is not always the best solution," Spahn, who was in charge of security for the 2006 soccer World Cup and the 2011 women's World Cup in Germany, told Reuters.

"It should be a tailor-made security event instead of blanket security plan. Not just standard measures, a tailor-made concept and what is decisive for me is that safety and security cannot been seen isolation," he said.

HOLISTIC APPROACH

"It should be an integrated holistic approach. You cannot have for example a large number of police and military and then have holes in your accreditation system."

For Spahn, the Boston blasts are unlikely to discourage other major sports events held in city courses instead of stadiums or indoor arenas where security can be much more controlled.

Boston is part of the World Marathon Majors, an association of the world's biggest marathon races that includes New York, Tokyo, Berlin, London and Chicago.

London marathon organisers are already reviewing their security arrangements ahead of Sunday's race.

"We do not have them (blasts) every week. This is the absolute exception," Spahn said. "You should not put yourself in a position where you give those who did the attack, what they really want, where you curtail all those liberties, all that what make up our society, freedom, the right to stage such events, freedom of movement.

"It is not that now it happened, now no marathon can take place. It is impossible to have no fan trouble in football anymore. If millions of people come together there will be always one or two who will have different plans."

Compared to day events like marathons, the Olympics are arguably even more at risk given several inner city sports events during their 16 days and global exposure of the world's biggest multi-sports event.

Cycling, marathon, race walking and triathlon races are some of the events staged in the city during the Games.

"I don't think it changes anything from a sponsor's perspective," former long-time Olympic marketing and broadcasting chief Michael Payne told Reuters.

"The support of this mass event, because of the public interest, remains a very attractive proposition."

"The sponsoring of events or sponsors' perspective is far more in jeopardy through threats of gambling, corruption, illegal betting," said Payne, who is now an international consultant, working with Olympic bodies, bid cities, and Formula One racing.

"That's attacking the integrity of sport as opposed to the nature of the event which is presumably singled out by whoever it is because it is popular."

OLYMPIC SECURITY

Payne said security for the Olympics would also not be overhauled following the attacks on Monday.

"Security has been at the forefront of Olympic planning since the 1972 tragedy," said Payne in reference to the 11 dead Israelis following a standoff with Palestinian gunmen.

"It has continued to be the number one issue, protecting athletes, visitors, and the city. From my experience in major events whether sport or music, as tragic as Boston is, I don't think it changes the sponsor attitude, nor does it change the fundamental security dynamics," said Payne.

"Sadly this is the nature of society we are currently in and from a sponsor's perspective security of Olympics was never an issue. Doping and gambling and integrity of sport is."

For other marathon organisers the blasts triggered a renewed look into their own security plans.

"We have to see what happened in Boston what the background is and whether it can be related to Berlin," Berlin marathon sports director Mark Milde said. "It will be locked in our brains."

For Paris marathon director Joel Laine the problem lies in the nature of the large event.

"It is an abominable, unspeakable act. It is going to create a terrible atmosphere of suspicion a few days before the London marathon," Laine said in a statement.

"Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do in the face of such acts. When you have 40,000 people on the Champs Elysees at the start, if someone comes to throw a bomb, what can you do?" – Reuters




Tags: US | blasts | Boston |

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