Boston Marathon

Boston Marathon announces increased security

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Boston Marathon organizers detailed what they called a comprehensive security plan Monday for the April 21 race, following last year’s bombings that killed three people and injured more than 260.

Some 36,000 runners — 9,000 more than last year — and perhaps more than one million spectators are expected for the 26.2-mile race on Patriots’ Day.

They will face measures such as 3,500 police officers — uniformed and in plain clothes and more than double last year’s amount, according to The Associated Press. Also, bomb-sniffing dogs, more surveillance cameras and increased barriers separating runners from spectators.

A joint terrorism task force under supervision of the FBI will be involved in safety and security operations.

A goal is to preserve the traditional feel and character of the Boston Marathon, in its 118th running this year.

“We never forget the tragedy and the suffering that occurred last year,” said Tom Grilk, executive director of the Boston Athletic Association, in a press conference. “We also want to do our part in supporting the resilience that we all have come to know as Boston Strong. Our role at the Boston Athletic Association will be to do what we do, which is mainly putting on athletic events.”

Officials are promoting a simple slogan — if you see something, say something.

“Our security plan has been informed by what happened last year, and our collective evaluation of what worked well, what could have worked better and the lessons we learned,” said Kurt Schwartz, director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

Runners won’t be allowed to wear backpacks, though fanny packs and fuel belts are OK.

Spectators are asked to abide by common-sense guidelines. They are discouraged from bringing backpacks or large coolers or wear costumes or masks.

Some areas of the course may include screening checkpoints for spectators, who are asked to carry items in clear, plastic bags. Further threat assessments and intelligence analysis will be conduced in the six weeks leading to race day.

“One of the lessons learned here, I think, is that the public, the spectators, the participants in this marathon are another part of the security of this marathon,” Massachusetts State Police Colonel/Superintendent Tim Alben said. “Be more vigilant, to pay attention what’s around them, who’s around them, strange things that might occur.”

There hasn’t been specific intelligence indicating threats for this year’s race, but organizers are taking precautions should one pop up.

They are confident, though, encouraging people to visit popular areas, such as Boylston Street, the road where the finish line lies and where the two bombs went off last year.

U.S. Olympians added to Boston Marathon field

Claressa Shields congratulated by famous boxing actor (video)

Claressa Shields
Getty Images
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Claressa Shields may just be the most dominant female athlete on the planet. The Flint, Mich., native is now a two-time Olympic boxing champion with a 77-1 record and a four-year unbeaten streak.

Actor Mark Wahlberg, who played boxer Micky Ward in the 2010 film “The Fighter,” took notice.

He taped a video that Shields watched before a celebration in her hometown Thursday, according to the Flint Journal.

“You are the true definition of a champion,” Wahlberg said. “You continue to inspire so many people, not only in Flint, but all over the world. I’m so proud of you. Your performance was amazing. God bless you. I look forward to seeing you, and I look forward to doing lots of things with you.”

Now Shields must decide whether to turn professional, which would end her Olympic career.

“Professional women’s boxing is not nowhere near on the same attention level as the Olympics are,” the 21-year-old Shields said, according to the Flint Journal. “I get way more attention than any female boxer who is professional right now with me being an amateur.

“So the goal is to go professional but still have that same attention and same mainstream. Hopefully, if they have the rule changed that the women professionals can come back and fight the Olympics, I would go professional to fight on TV and make a bunch of money but then come back and defend my two gold medals in 2020.”

MORE: Shields becomes first U.S. fighter to win back-to-back golds

Russian Olympic medalists gifts include racehorse

Abdulrashid Sadulaev
AP
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MOSCOW (AP) — Luxury cars, apartments, even a racehorse — being an Olympic medalist in Russia can come with great material rewards but also controversy.

Under President Vladimir Putin, it’s become a tradition for Russia’s Olympic heroes to be showered with large cash sums and sometimes unwanted gifts.

On Friday, less than 24 hours after dozens of medalists were presented with BMW cars at the Kremlin by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, an advertisement appeared online offering one of them for sale, with photographs showing the car still covered in stickers celebrating Russia’s medal haul in Rio.

The advertisement offering the BMW X6 for 4.67 million rubles ($72,000) was anonymous and quickly withdrawn. It couldn’t be independently verified by The Associated Press, though Russian agency R-Sport claimed the seller was a Russian medalist who thought the car was too big and unwieldy.

Figure skater Maxim Trankov, who received a Mercedes-Benz SUV for his gold medal in 2014, said few Olympians could afford to own such cars.

“Has no one thought that these gift cars are not only liable for the tax on luxury items, but also aren’t cheap to run and earnings can’t cover it?” he wrote on Twitter. “I’d sell mine too if it came to it … Or does everyone think all sports pay as well as soccer, hockey or tennis?”

Gymnast Seda Tutkhalyan said she wouldn’t be able to drive her new BMW because at 17 years of age she was too young to have a license.

While online commenters mostly supported an athlete’s right to sell expensive Olympic gifts, many were critical of the government for a display of conspicuous consumption at the Kremlin at a time when Russia’s pension and healthcare systems are under financial strain.

It’s not fully clear how much the prizes have cost the Russian government.

State TV channel Rossiya 24 reported that the fleet of BMWs was provided by the Olympians’ Support Fund, which is backed by a group of Russia’s richest men, but that the accompanying cash prizes of tens of thousands of dollars per medalist came in part from the federal budget.

More awards are on offer from regional governments, many of which made public displays of generosity despite financial troubles of their own.

The Caucasus region of North Ossetia last month promised a free apartment for any medalists from the area, though it isn’t clear if this has happened yet.

In another grand gesture, the head of the restive Dagestan region gave Olympic wrestling champion Abdulrashid Sadulaev 6 million rubles ($93,000) in cash and a racehorse at a lavish welcoming ceremony featured on local TV.

Still, all may not be well for Sadulaev, who’s nicknamed the “Russian Tank” for his habit of crushing opponents on the wrestling mat. He’s already facing an allegation from a Moscow radio presenter of reckless driving in his eye-catching BMW.

MORE: Putin slams Russia’s Paralympic ban