Runners in London Determined to Compete in Sunday's Marathon

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Aaron Schachter: Retired commander Bob Broadhurst was in charge of the policing operation for London's 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Commander Broadhurst, London's marathon is a huge event, more than 36,000 runners. Officials in London say they are reviewing security arrangements in the wake of what happened in Boston. What kind of revisions can you imagine might be under consideration now?

Bob Broadhurst: Well, I imagine they're talking very closely to colleagues in the states and particularly the FBI. But there's not a lot to change. What you will be seeing is more police on the streets as a bit of a higher visible presence. They'll have to switch their regime slightly, but of course you can't legislate for a lone individual when you've got crowds of several thousands on the streets. You just can't search everything.

Schachter: And on that note, the talk here is about how difficult it is to secure 26.2 miles of a race, but unlike the marathon here in Boston which starts kind of out in the boondocks, outside of Boston, London's course weaves and loops around the city itself. Providing security on both sides of the sort of a course sounds near impossible.

Broadhurst: Well, it is. It is near impossible and of course, the price you pay in a free society for free movement is that you are vulnerable to the kind of heinous people that want to do the kind of attacks that they've done in Boston. The bottom line for the police or any security service, unless you actually clear all the streets, keep all the people away and have the runners running for 26 miles on their own, you just cannot legislate against the kind of thing that happened in Boston. So you do everything you can and the people of London, like the people of Boston will have the fortitude to show up and say look, we're not gonna give in to this kind of attack, we're gonna run. It's a very, very small risk at the end of the day and it's shocking that it's happened in Boston. Police services across the free world do their best to stop this kind of attack. The bottom line is if someone is really determined in a crowd of several thousand, it's gonna happen.

Schachter: Is the biggest tactic, the biggest prevention really boots on the ground on the day of or is it intelligence leading up to the event?

Broadhurst: It starts with intelligence and clearly the intelligence has worked against the international terrorists, those who need to work together. Where intelligence tends to fall down is on the lone individual or the person with a grudge who's hidden away in their home, totally under the radar of security services. That's everybody's worst nightmare, the lone wolf as we've seen in attacks across the world in recent years. But certainly feigning intelligence, and if there is no intelligence as there was none in Boston or else you know, your colleagues would have dealt with it, feet on the ground are the very best thing. People looking for the unusual behavior, working with the public to make sure that the people can't leave a bag unattended and if they do, doing something with it…that's really the best effort you can put against this type of attack.

Schachter: Some of the security arrangements during the 2012 Olympics, like mounting missiles on the top of apartment buildings sparked a public outcry. From your perspective is there such a thing as too much security for an event like this?

Broadhurst: Yeah, of course there is. If you put too much security then people don't feel safe, people don't want to turn up and run in the first instance. For the Olympic games I think we have to accept that the Olympics are you know, they're a four year event and they're a global event. And the reason you put rockets on the ground and fighter jets in the air is a kind of international deterrent to someone that wants to come and ruin that event. The London Marathon, the Boston Marathon, they're much more locally, so right, they have a global reach on television, but they're actually local events. You're not gonna be attacked by a global nation for a marathon. So actually rockets, jet aircraft, they're no use whatsoever, all they do is scare people and actually put people off coming. You know, these are free societies. The people come to the streets to be together and you know, for the enjoyment, and fun and competition of sport. And we must never give into the terrorists by stopping that.

Schachter: Commander, has there ever been a serious security incident at a London Marathon?

Broadhurst: Not at the marathon, no, nothing along this level. It's the usual, mundane crowd control issues and the odd idiot who wants to jump out and take out an elite runner as we've seen at the Olympic marathon. But you know, it's always there in the background and that's what the planning does its best to litigate against.

Schachter: Are there any lessons that the police in London can take from what happened in Boston?

Broadhurst: Yeah, of course, I mean maybe there are some issues—I understand this happened near the finish line, and the finish line as you say in London is in a very iconic part of central London. Maybe there's some extra issues there, perhaps you stop people from going into that particular area with bags so they can't place anything down. You up the search regime in that particular part of the route, but that then still leaves another 24-25 miles unprotected. Again, I think it comes down to officers. The way we do it in London is officers along the route adopt a part of the crowd. They'll be looking at people, talking to people, making sure people don't leave bags unattended or throw things into the bins, all that type of stuff. It is very much in cooperation with the public and I think you'll find what the attack in Boston would have done, it will affect the minds in the public as well. And I expect the police over here to have a lot more cause to deal with what people see, and bags left lying around on their own and the pressure will just add to the police and security operation.

Schachter: Retired British Commander Bob Broadhurst was in charge of the policing operation for London's 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Thank you for joining us, sir.

Broadhurst: It's a pleasure.