Montreal Gazette

We are all Bostonians

Threats posed by people with bad intentions know no borders


What happened to the Boston Marathon is not about sports, or, at least, not only about sports. It could have happened anywhere — a St. Patrick’s Day parade, a pride parade, a championsh­ip parade. They have had a lot of those in Boston in the last 12 years. They were soft targets, too.

The problem with the Boston Marathon was that it was not the Super Bowl, or the Olympics, or even a Bruins game. It cannot be sealed away from the community, because a marathon cannot be contained.

At the 2012 London Olympics, only part of the route required tickets for access — it went to Westminste­r Bridge, past the Queen Victoria Memorial, toward the Tower of London, and was wholly part of the city. The Olympics themselves take place in a vast, armoured bubble, but part of the marathon roamed free.

It was the same in Boston until the bombs went off, full of nails and shrapnel, designed to maim as many people as possible.

The pipe bombs that went off at a public gathering place in Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 Games were also packed with nails. They killed one woman, gave a Turkish cameraman running to the scene a fatal heart attack and injured another 111 people.

It turned out to be an antiaborti­on attack, in a convoluted way, and largely took place at the Olympics because the world was watching. In his statement, the bomber, who was not caught until 2003, said he wanted to create a state of insecurity.

That’s what Boston felt on Monday. That’s what a lot of people felt Monday. The numbers kept climbing, inevitably — three dead, more than 170 injured, some critically. When things like this happen, nothing feels safe.

And that’s probably because nothing truly is. As sports have become global properties, television citadels, money-making jewels, the security surroundin­g them has grown.

In 1972, the members of Black September had to scale a 10-foot chain link fence to gain access to the Olympic Village to kill Israeli athletes. Afterward, athletes’ villages became armed camps.

After 9/11, the Salt Lake City Olympics bolstered security to the point that athletes’ bags were searched and men with guns swarmed the city. The security budget was $441 million, three times what was spent in Atlanta.

In Athens in 2004, the se- curity budget ballooned to $1.2 billion and someone asked Stephen Owen, then Canada’s minister of state for sport, about the Vancouver Olympics. Owen said the 2010 Games could be secured for maybe $100 million. “There are just different realities in different parts of the world,” he told the reporter.

Vancouver’s security eventually cost about $900 million and still, this could have happened there. There were people flooding the downtown core for 16 days. There were a lot of backpacks.

And Boston was a soft target because in marathons people come to cheer perfect strangers as they push themselves to the limit. It’s a shared thing, a marathon, a beautiful collaborat­ion. The marathon becomes part of the city, entwined and inextricab­le, a festival. It was vulnerable because it was a free event. Anybody could come and watch, right to the end.

And that divide is where sports is going. The NBA now requires fans to submit to a scan by a hand-held metal detector before entering an arena; the Super Bowl is a fortress, with bomb-sniffing dogs checking every journalist’s backpack and satchel, with metal detectors and pat-downs; there are snipers in the building, fingers near the trigger. The Olympics are fortified; London’s security budget was $1.6 billion and featured the military, warships, surveillan­ce aircraft, missile batteries on rooftops and — like the Super Bowl — no-fly zones.

And when you are inside, you feel safe. When the lights went out at the Superdome during the Super Bowl, I felt safe. In London, in Vancouver, in Beijing, at every venue, I felt safe. There will be more hand-wanding and metal detectors and the like at big events, but you will feel safe, too.

The rest of it — the outdoor public gatherings or celebratio­ns that accompany a run to the Stanley Cup in hockey towns, marathons and bike races, sports bars, even tailgating, the places people gather to feel like they’re all in this together — that is outside the gates and there is danger outside the gates. That’s part of the price of non-admission. That won’t change until everybody stays home.

That’s not sports so much as society, though. One person can hurt or kill a lot of people, with the right amount of determinat­ion and the wrong intent.

And it can happen anywhere people gather together in a communal setting.

In the Aurora, Colo., shootings, it was a movie theatre. In Newtown, it was a school. In Boston, it was a marathon. It can happen anywhere. The power is in preserving that community and carrying on.

In London, the transporta­tion hub for the 2012 Olympics was Russell Square, which was one of the subway stations affected by the July 7, 2005, subway bombings and there were people there every day.

There was a tiny plaque off in one corner of the park. Nobody seemed to notice.

There are not vastly different realities in different parts of the world, not really.

There is just good luck and bad luck, inside the bubble and outside the bubble, the joys of community and the dangers of free societies.

As New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg told reporters Tuesday, “Unfortunat­ely, every city is a potential victim to terrorists.”

And as Boston police commission­er Ed Davis said Tuesday, asked by reporters about future Boston Marathons, “It requires we don’t turn these events into a police state.’’

So, we all carry on.

On Monday, Vancouver’s 10-kilometre Sun Run was up 348 entries from the same day last year, or more than 50 per cent.

On Tuesday, there was another surge in registrati­ons.

The London Marathon will take place on Sunday. People will run, together.

The stories of kindness from Boston were beautiful; locals taking in runners whose hotels were outside Boston’s expensive downtown, first responders running toward the blast, people helping.

As Mister Rogers once put it, speaking of terrible events, look for the helpers. There are always people helping. That’s what the Boston Marathon was, in every way. It showed what people are capable of.

 ?? CHARLES KRUPA/ THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? A runner passes a police officer dressed in tactical gear the morning after explosions killed three in Boston.
CHARLES KRUPA/ THE ASSOCIATED PRESS A runner passes a police officer dressed in tactical gear the morning after explosions killed three in Boston.
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada