London Marathon organisers are confident that Mo Farah and the rest of the elite field will be on the start line for Sunday’s race, allaying fears that the terrorist attack in Boston would lead to a spate of withdrawals.
Nick Bitel, the London Marathon chief executive, said he and his staff had been in touch with most of the competing athletes’ agents since Monday’s deadly bombing at the Boston Marathon and he was not aware of a single runner who wanted to pull out on safety grounds.
That included Farah, whose agent, Ricky Simms, confirmed last night that the double Olympic champion remained committed to taking part.
A spokesman for Simms’ company, Pace Management, said: “We’re confident in the arrangements that are being put in place, so we don’t see any reason why we would pull anyone out. We’ll just have to be guided by the organisers over the next few days.”
Police revealed that security was likely to be beefed up in the wake of the worst terrorist attack since 2001 to hit the United States, which killed three people and injured 150 more.
It was also announced that Farah and the rest of the London field would be asked to observe a 30-second silence before the elite men’s race, as well as being encouraged to wear black ribbons.
Simms, who also represents Usain Bolt, experienced the Boston explosions first hand, having watched Kenyan Micah Kogo finish second in the men’s marathon before departing for the official race hotel, the Fairmont Copley Plaza.
The hotel was close to the finishing line, where one of the blasts took place, and it was immediately placed into lockdown. Simms arrived in London yesterday.
Farah, who will be running in his home city for the first time since he won Olympic gold in the 5,000 and 10,000 metres last summer, is contracted to run just the first half of Sunday’s race as a dress rehearsal for his full marathon debut in London next year.
Although Farah is the headline act from a British perspective, race organisers have also assembled one of the finest-ever marathon fields, with the men’s race featuring Olympic gold medallist Stephen Kiprotich, defending London champion Wilson Kipsang and world-record holder Patrick Makau.
The women’s field includes Olympic champion Tiki Gelana, silver-medallist Priscah Jeptoo and world champion Edna Kiplagat.
Bitel said he had full confidence in the security plans for the race after attending meetings yesterday morning with senior officers from the Metropolitan Police’s Gold and Silver Commands. The Gold Command oversees strategic security planning for the race while the Silver Command handles operational matters. Further meetings with race organisers are planned.
In addition to the elite athletes, in excess of 37,000 recreational runners are due to take part in the 26.2-mile race from Blackheath to The Mall, with half a million spectators expected to line the streets.
The Government insisted the race would go ahead as planned, with sports minister Hugh Robertson “absolutely confident” the runners and spectators could be kept safe and secure.
As with the elite runners, Bitel said he had no indication that fun-runners would pull out in any significant numbers.
He added in a statement: “The support we have been offered by our stakeholders and the wider running community has been outstanding. We have the full support of the Metropolitan Police, the Mayor’s office and other authorities.
“We want to reassure our runners, spectators, volunteers and everyone connected with the event that we are doing everything to ensure their safety and that the Virgin London Marathon 2013 will be an outstanding success.”
The decision to proceed with the race was backed by Ed Warner, the UK Athletics chairman, who said: “I’m very conscious of the work that London Marathon are doing around safety and security for this weekend.
“I have complete confidence that race organisers, police and security services will do the right thing by the race. It’s important that it’s not waylaid by those tragic events in Boston.”
Among the elite athletes competing on Sunday will be 24 wheelchair racers who were in action in Boston. Most of them were on an overnight flight to London last night accompanied by London Marathon disability coordinator Michelle Weltman.
Because of the quicker recovery time for wheelchair athletes compared to runners, Boston and London have joined forces to create the ‘Boston London Wheelchair Challenge’ which offers $35,000 in prize money to the top three male and female athletes competting in the two races.
One of them, 2010 London winner Josh Cassidy, said he was in a restaurant close to the Boston finish line when the bombs went off.
He said: “Moments later, you could hear the commotion outside, and out the window were people running from the finish-line area across the street. My first concern was all the people I know, particularly friends and organisers, or other top athletes that could still be in the area. Thank heavens, it seems everyone I know is fine.”
Women’s marathon world record holder Paula Radcliffe told the BBC: “I have every confidence in the London Marathon community and the Metropolitan Police that they won’t let it go ahead unless they have done everything possible.”