Boat Race security breach sparks Games safety fears
LONDON, April 10, 2012 - The world renowned Boat Race, with Oxford and Cambridge Universities competing for the 158th time on the River Thames was interrupted by a protester who appeared in the water between the crews.
The action by an Australian named as Trenton Oldfield led to the race being stopped and then being resumed after a significant delay.
SECURITY FEARS But there are now fears that some events at the London 2012 Olympics in July could be affected by similar disruption.
Three of the major outdoor events at the Games are the marathon over 26 miles and 285 yards and triathlon and cycling.
"It is virtually impossible for any event, including the Games, to consider every single potential intervention," said David Bedford, joint race director of the London Marathon, in the Sunday Times.
"This is an example of things that could happen and therefore you could argue it is a great time as far as London 2012 is concerned. For events in public places such as marathons and road cycling you have to be at the top of your game to counter this type of intervention."
In the Boat Race, the umpire John Garrett halted the two boats when a bearded man was seen in the water close to the crews after they had been rowing for ten minutes and 23 seconds.The assistant umpire Matthew Pinsent, an Olympic gold medallist and oarsman himself, had first spotted the intruder.
Once the intruder had been removed, Garrett took the two crews a short distance down river and then restarted the competition. Almost immediately there was a heavy clash of blades and one oar in the Oxford boat was so damaged that it was ineffective. Oxford were left to work with seven men and they finished 13 seconds behind Cambridge. Oxford wanted to stage a re-row but Garrett refused.
Oxford had their bowman David Wells unconscious at the finish and he was taken to hospital where he recovered. Wells had been trying for ten years to gain a place in the Oxford boat.
TRAINED STEWARDS COULD PREVENT SECURITY BREACHES There have been various incidents at the Boat Race in its long history but this latest incident raised fears that there might be similar interruptions at the Olympics. The Daily Telegraph forecast that London 2012 organisers would rely on thousands of trained stewards lining the courses of the most vulerable events to prevent security breaches.
FLAME TO BE PROTECTED BY SPECIAL POLICE UNIT There is also a demand to secure the route of the Olympic Flame which will start a 70 day journey around the United Kingdom on May 19. London's Met Police will second a special unit to travel with the flame.
VOLUNTEERS' SECURITY ROLE In addition to trained stewards, some of the 70,000 volunteers will have the job of watching the crowds and looking out for any unusual behaviour. They will face the crowds at big outdoor events such as marathons, road walking, triathlon, and open water swimming.
There are 26 events at London 2012 and there will be he
avy security around allof them. Some might increase after the Boat Race incident. The Games venues themselves will be highly protected.