Boston Marathon

Boston Marathon finish line security visibility increased after backpack incident

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Security visibility will increase near the finish of the Boston Marathon after a man carrying a backpack with a rice cooker was arrested there Tuesday night.

“We are going to increase visibility over the next couple days because of that incident,” Boston police commissioner William Evans said Wednesday. “We’ll have bike patrols down there. Nobody should be afraid to come to Copley Square, and nobody should be afraid to run the 118th Boston Marathon.”

The race Monday was already scheduled to have more than double the security presence of last year, when two pressure cooker bombs in backpacks exploded near the finish line, killing three and injuring more than 260.

The man who walked barefoot down Boylston Street in pouring rain Tuesday night was stopped by an officer who saw him acting suspiciously and taken to a local hotel for questioning. He dropped the backpack on the street and told the officer it contained a rice cooker. A bomb squad blew up the backpack.

Evans said that incident was not a breach of security because Boylston Street was open, as it will remain all week. A second unattended backpack was found Tuesday, belonging to a media member.

“That [arrested] individual, like anyone, had the right to basically walk up the street,” Evans said. “He had a backpack, and within that minute, our officers were on him, and we had the backpack back down on the ground. Based on what he said and what was in the bag, that’s why we went to the precautions that we did. You can never be too safe nowadays.”

Officials expressed confidence in the “comprehensive” race security plan Wednesday.

“Unfortunately last night we had an incident that you can see what the anxiety level goes out when an unattended backpack is left on the street,” Evans said. “I think it really set the tone last night how important it is to ask you not to bring those type of items.”

Backpacks are not forbidden, but spectators — some one million expected — are asked not to bring them and to place items in clear plastic bags if they must.

Evans also said there will be a limit on crowds near the finish on Boylston Street on Monday and that they will be subject to possible searches getting into the area. Once security’s movement is impeded, they will ask people to move to another location.

“Don’t everyone flock to Boylston Street,” Evans said. “The less we have on Boylston Street, the better.”

Security statistics include over 3,000 uniformed police officers and National Guard soldiers deployed along the course, up to 500 plain clothes officers in the crowd and over 100 video cameras along the eight cities and towns that will all have emergency operation centers.

Officials re-emphasized their goal among those staggering statistics — to maintain the traditional character of the Patriots’ Day event, the world’s oldest annual marathon.

“We’re not going to scare people,” Evans said. “Runners should be very confident coming to this race that it’s going to be safe and secure. … I don’t want everybody’s anxiety to be put up. That’s what troubles me about what happened last night.”

Boston Marathon tribute, moment of silence held near finish line

Hope Solo: I wouldn’t go to Olympics if I had to choose today

Hope Solo
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U.S. goalie Hope Solo said she would not go to the Rio Olympics if she had to choose today, citing being uncomfortable with the current situation in Brazil including the Zika virus, according to SI.com.

Pregnant women are at risk from the mosquito-borne, Brazil-based virus, Rio Games organizers medical director Dr. Joao Grangeiro said last week, according to The Associated Press.

It has sometimes been associated with a brain birth defect.

Olympic soccer matches will be held not only in Rio but also several other Brazilian cities that may have more mosquitoes and a greater Zika risk.

“No athlete competing in Rio should be faced with this dilemma,” Solo, a two-time Olympic champion, said, according to SI.com. “Female professional athletes already face many different considerations and have to make choices that male professional athletes don’t.

“We accept these particular choices as part of being a woman, but I do not accept being forced into making the decision between competing for my country and sacrificing the potential health of a child, or staying home and giving up my dreams and goals as an athlete. Competing in the Olympics should be a safe environment for every athlete, male and female alike. Female athletes should not be forced to make a decision that could sacrifice the health of a child.”

Grangeiro said the athletes would not be at risk during the Olympics in August, that there will be fewer mosquitoes in Brazil’s winter (opposite the U.S. summer), according to the AP.

“We will not have an epidemic or pandemic situation,” Grangeiro said, according to the AP. “We can’t say we won’t have any cases [during the Games], but we see this as a minimal risk.”

Solo and the U.S. women’s soccer team begin their Olympic qualifying tournament Wednesday (on NBC Sports Live Extra, full schedule here).

MORE: U.S. women’s soccer named 20-player Olympic qualifying roster

How to watch U.S. Olympic marathon trials

Meb Keflezighi
AP
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The U.S. Olympic marathon trials will air live for the first time, on NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra on Saturday from 1-4 p.m. ET.

The top three finishers in each of the men’s and women’s races in Los Angeles will become the first members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic track and field team.

The men’s race (1:06 p.m. ET) includes 2012 Olympic trials winner Meb Keflezighi hoping to become the oldest U.S. Olympic runner ever, Olympic 10,000m silver medalist Galen Rupp in his 26.2-mile debut and three-time Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein, who was fourth at the 2012 trials in Houston.

The women’s race (1:22 p.m. ET) includes all three 2012 Olympic marathon team members — Shalane FlanaganDesi Linden and Kara Goucher. Plus, Amy Hastings Cragg, who was fourth at trials four years ago.

Tom Hammond hosts coverage, joined by Craig Masback, Tim Hutchings, Lewis Johnson and Carrie Tollefson.

Olympic Marathon Trials Previews: Men | Women