LOUISVILLE, Ky. (CBS Baltimore/AP) – Officials with the Kentucky Derby announced that backpacks would be banned at the Marathon and miniMarathon held in conjunction with the Derby itself, in an effort to tighten security.
The Louisville Courier-Journal is reporting that festival president Mike Berry and vice president Matt Gibson made the announcement during a press conference held on Tuesday. Other banned items include duffel bags, purses taller or wider than 12 inches, luggage, tents, coolers and weapons.
Instead of backpacks, runners will have to bring any necessities in transparent bags. Any runners or spectators with bags will be subject to random inspection. Police dogs will also be brought in to inspect the start and finish areas, the Courier-Journal learned.
According to Churchill Downs, backpacks had been previously banned from the Kentucky Derby and Oaks themselves in 2012. Coolers, noisemakers, pepper spray, fireworks and purses larger than 12 inches were recently added to this year’s list of prohibited items. Also banned are cameras with detachable lenses, cameras equipped with lenses more than six inches in length, and tripods of any kind.
The changes in policy – inspired by the bombing of the Boston Marathon, which Gibson referred to as “a game changer” regarding their approach to event security - also reportedly extend to what are referred to as “bandit runners,” or runners who participate in the race but are not formally registered or given bib numbers.
Berry stated, “If you are running in the race and you do not have your bib on you will be removed from the race.”
Louisville police are also asking Kentucky Derby visitors to be vigilant on race day and on the lookout for unattended items in the wake of the bombings at the Boston Marathon.
Police will have about 1,200 officers out in force for the Derby and Kentucky Oaks. Louisville Police Maj. Kelly Jones encouraged racing fans to alert officers of any suspicious-looking items left unattended.
He said the Boston Marathon bombings have raised the public’s awareness of potential attacks.
“I think it’s reminded the public to have a heightened sense of awareness,” Jones said.
Despite the changes, Jones asserted that the security measures implemented in the past would be used again this year.
“This is not our first Oaks and Derby, and we’ll basically be following the same plan that we’ve always followed,” he stated.
Berry noted that, in addition to tightening security for the event, the victims of the Boston Marathon attack will also be remembered in the use of blue and yellow decorations, emulating the colors of the Boston race.
He added, ““Also at the start of the race we will be observing a moment of silence for those who have been so tragically impacted by the bombings.”
Public health officials in Boston are saying that 264 people sought treatment at hospitals for injuries sustained in the Boston Marathon bombings.
Authorities had been saying that about 180 people were injured, but that was just victims brought to hospitals in the immediate aftermath of the April 15 explosions. Three people were killed and at least 14 people lost all or part of a limb.
The Preakness Stakes, which will be held late next month, recently added a running race component to their festivities. The fourth annual “Down the Stretch for SGK” Preakness 5k will take place a week before the race itself, according to a press release on the Stakes’ website.
CBS Baltimore has reached out to security officials at Pimlico Race Course for comment regarding potential changes in security policies surrounding the upcoming events.
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