Usain Bolt spurred JFK airport panic, cops made it worse, review finds

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NEW YORK (AP) — Poor communication among police, private security and other personnel contributed to a mass panic that erupted at a New York City airport when loud cheers for Usain Bolt somehow led to a false report of gunshots, according to a review by a team of top security officials.

Passengers at Kennedy Airport ran for the exits on Aug. 14 after cheering at a terminal bar during the Olympics was mistaken for something sinister. Panic spread to two other terminals when news of a gunman spread on social media, and police responded by drawing their weapons.

A letter from the officials to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, made public on Monday, blamed both airport employees and law enforcement for fueling the hysteria by overreacting to several mistaken reports of gunshots, instead of seeking to calm travelers.

Among the more glaring missteps: At the height of the chaos, the flight crew of a Korean Air jetliner deployed evacuation chutes, “producing a ‘popping’ sound that may have been mistaken for gunfire.” The officials also said that in the end, the airport had no efficient way to let travelers know the threat wasn’t real.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, “the specter of terrorism has embedded itself in the national psyche and created a persistent, abiding tension that cannot be ignored,” the letter concluded. “Coordination and training … is absolutely fundamental to properly address this new paradigm.”

Cuomo ordered the review after the episode raised questions about the ability of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which runs the airport, to respond to an actual terror attack.

“The events at JFK were a wake-up call to rethink and reevaluate our security procedures to reflect the new, changing reality of 21st century threats and to better ensure the safety of all New Yorkers,” the governor said in a statement Monday.

A review of security video and recordings of 911 calls found that the chain-reaction scare began with a call about a disturbance at a cafe, where travelers were watching TVs showing Bolt sprint to a gold medal victory in the Olympics. Several calls that followed reported shots fired in the same terminal, the letter said.

After spotting Port Authority police officers pull their weapons and move toward the commotion, Transportation Security Administration agents began heading for the emergency exits, it said. Passengers followed their lead, with some even fleeing onto the tarmac.

“Seeing TSA agents running away and PAPD with guns drawn created obvious fear and panic,” it said. As the result of the self-evacuation, “secure areas were compromised, which left the terminals, tarmac and airplanes vulnerable to a possible terrorist attack or other illegal conduct,” it added.

Over the next 90 minutes, a total of 275 officers — 88 from the Port Authority and 187 from the New York Police Department — responded to the calls before authorities determined there was no evidence of a shooter, the review concluded.

Among the recommendations by the security officials is setting up a central command center at JFK manned by the representatives from each security entity. The center “should have access to closed-circuit television feeds and the ability to make announcements to a terminal or the entire airport from a central location,” the letter said.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York called on authorities to make the command center a priority, saying he remains “deeply troubled that many loopholes remain at JFK, especially with camera security.”

Port Authority Executive Director Pat Foye said the agency is “committed to providing coordinated training and drills recognizing the needs and strengths of all agencies, and to make internal and external communications seamless.”

VIDEO: Watch clip from Usain Bolt’s film, ‘I am Bolt’

Ironman Kona World Championships return for first time in three years, live on Peacock

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The Ironman Kona World Championships return after a three-year hiatus with a new format, live on Peacock on Thursday and Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

The Ironman, held annually in Hawaii since 1978, and in Kailua-Kona since 1981, was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world championships made a one-time-only stop in St. George, Utah, on May 7 to make up for the 2021 cancellation. The winners were Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, the Tokyo Olympic triathlon champion, and Swiss Daniela Ryf, who bagged her fifth Ironman world title.

Both are entered in Kailua-Kona, where the races are now split between two days — Thursday for the women and Saturday for the men.

An Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon — totaling 140.6 miles of racing. It takes top triathletes eight hours to complete. Very arguably, it crowns the world’s fittest man and woman.

WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona, Thursday, 12 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Ryf, 35 and a 2008 and 2012 Olympian, can tie retired countrywoman Natascha Badmann for second place on the women’s list at six Ironman world titles. Only Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser has more with eight.

The field also includes German Anne Haug, the 2019 Kona champ and only woman other than Ryf to win since 2015. Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay, the Kona runner-up in 2017, 2018 and 2019, returns after missing the St. George event due to a stress fracture in her hip.

Blummenfelt, 28 and in his Kona debut, will try to become the youngest male champion in Kona since German Normann Stadler in 2005. His top challengers include countryman Gustav Iden, the two-time reigning Half Ironman world champion, and German Patrick Lange, the 2017 and 2018 Ironman Kona winner.

Also racing Saturday is Dallas Clark, a retired All-Pro NFL tight end with the Indianapolis Colts, and Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 champion who completed the 2011 Kona Ironman in 12 hours, 52 minutes, 40 seconds.

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Joan Benoit Samuelson, Olympic marathon champ in 1984, runs London Marathon at 65

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Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, ran her first 26.2-mile race in three years at Sunday’s London Marathon and won her age group.

Benoit Samuelson, 65, clocked 3 hours, 20 minutes, 20 seconds to top the women’s 65-69 age group by 7 minutes, 52 seconds. She took pleasure in being joined in the race by daughter Abby, who crossed in 2:58:19.

“She may have beaten me with my replacement knee, but everybody said I wouldn’t do it! I will never say never,” Benoit Samuelson said, according to race organizers. “I am a grandmother now to Charlotte, and it’s my goal to run 5K with her.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Benoit Samuelson raced the 1987 Boston Marathon while three months pregnant with Abby. Before that, she won the first Olympic women’s marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, plus the Boston Marathon in 1979 and 1983 and the Chicago Marathon in 1985.

Her personal best — 2:21:21 — still holds up. She ranks sixth in U.S. women’s history.

Benoit Samuelson plans to race the Tokyo Marathon to complete her set of doing all six annual World Marathon Majors. The others are Berlin, Boston, Chicago and New York City.

“I’m happy to finish this race and make it to Tokyo, but I did it today on a wing and a prayer,” she said, according to organizers. “I’m blessed to have longevity in this sport. It doesn’t owe me anything, but I feel I owe my sport.”

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