Organisers of the Virgin London Marathon, set to take place on Sunday 21 April, have pledged to review security but have no plans to cancel the event, following yesterday’s bomb blasts near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
The organisers and the Metropolitan Police Service have both issued statements saying they will work together to review security but giving no details as to what that might entail.
Other commentators have referred to the need to balance security against the spirit of the event, which winds its way across 26 miles of London, past iconic landmarks such as Big Ben, Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf.
However, given the open nature of the route, through heavily built up areas, it’s difficult to imagine what the police will be able to do on the day beyond crowd management and traffic control.
Most of the security preparations ahead of the event will most likely involve checking and double checking known individuals and groups who might have the motive or the ability to mount an attack.
In a rare public speech ahead of the London Olympics, the then head of MI5 warned that the Olympic Games would be an attractive target for terrorists.
He said the security services were actively tracking dozens of groups and disrupting at least one major incident a year.
He also noted that the threat from terrorism coming out of Pakistan and Afghanistan had decreased to below half of the agency’s workload for the first time in years. “We appear to be moving from a period of a deep and focused threat to one where the threat is less monolithic but wider,” he said.
The FBI has taken over the investigation of the bomb attacks. While the White House has refrained from calling the attacks “terrorism” until they have more information, the investigation is reportedly being treated as such.
There are reports that two or three unexploded devices were found nearby which, if true, could yield invaluable forensic evidence as to the identity and capabilities of the bomber or bombers.
The attacks also took place under the gaze of hundreds of video and still cameras from around the world, plus CCTV. The FBI will be busy collecting as much of that still and video imagery as possible, not to mention beginning the analysis of the more promising images.