Survivors and first responders of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing walk down Boylston Street to the marathon finish line during a Tribute Run in Boston Nolan Ryan Jersey , Massachusetts, the United States, on Saturday. Twin bombs placed in backpacks near the finish line of Boston Marathon killed three people and injured more than 260 on April 15, 2013.
OVER the long, cold winter, Boston has been ready to stage a marathon race this year that will be one of the biggest and safest, sources with the organizer - Boston Athletic Association (BAA) - said on Saturday.

The 118th Boston Marathon, scheduled for April 21, has drawn a huge field of over 36,000 runners, which is capacity for the course and over 9,000 more than last year. The runners include thousands who were forced to stop last year after the explosions and thousands more who want to show their solidarity with Boston.

Meanwhile, at least one million spectators, twice the usual crowd, are expected to gather along the 42 km course, many of them at the finish line on Boylston Street, where two bombs exploded, killing three people and injuring 260 others.

The security challenge is immense, in part because the event is spread across eight cities and towns along a route lined by spectators on both sides.

More than 3,500 police officers, twice last year's number, will be deployed, according to the organizer. Those plans include plainclothes officers, private security contractors, numerous security checkpoints with metal detectors, bomb-sniffing dogs and hundreds of surveillance cameras, according to BAA officials.

Spectators are being encouraged to carry their belongings in clear plastic bags to speed up security screening and nt to carry backpacks or coolers, wear vests with pockets, or bring baby strollers. Fanny packs are allowed if they measure smaller than 5 inches by 15 inches by 5 inches.

According to a previous regulation from the organizer, those unregistered runners, known as "bandits," who jump into the race along the route, would be banned this year. But local police explained later that if someone jumps into the race, police would respond to them on a case-by-case basis.

Local public safety officials said they had met with security personnel around the world in preparation for this year's marathon, including several sessions with the New York City Police Department and security officials in London.

Despite the intense security upgrades, the officials said they did not want Boston to appear to be a police state and they were trying to retain the festive and traditional character of the event, the oldest continuously run marathon in the world.

"We are confident that the overall experience of runners and spectators will not be impacted and all will enjoy a fun, festive and family-oriented day," Kurt Schwartz, director of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, said.

The marathon is held on Patriots' Day, which falls on the third Monday in April and commemorates the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775. It is celebrated in only a few states; in Massachusetts, it is a school holiday, which makes the marathon all the more festive.

"I want to encourage everyone to come out," said Timothy Alben, superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police. "This is the opportunity to show the resiliency of the American public, to celebrate Patriots' Day. I'd love to see people come out to run."


MELBOURNE, May 21 (Xinhua) -- Melbourne is set to host games of American football after one of the city's major stadiums entered talks with college teams from the United States.

Paul Sergeant, chief executive officer of Melbourne's Etihad Stadium, said on Thursday that he had been in negotiations with two college football conferences about bringing bowl games to Australia from 2016.

He said Melbourne's reputation as the sporting capital of the world means the city is the perfect fit for American football.

He told SEN 1116 radio that American football has a strong following in Melbourne, and that a deal to secure four games over four years would be "massive" for Victoria.

"American sport, let alone college football, has a massive following in this country. It's a quality product," he said.

"We've engaged with the Pac-12 and the Mountain West conferences. We know Pac-12 is full of the big household names ... UCLA, Stanford, Washington, you name it. They have many big names in Pac-12."

He said college administrators were sold on the idea of bringing the sport overseas, it was just a matter of organizing the logistics and finer details.

"They're very keen. They see a wonderful opportunity in terms of a student athlete experience."

"It's something that would be a perfect fit for Eithad Stadium."

The privately-funded event would incorporate a five day American festival, which would bring the best of American foods, music and culture to Melbourne with the bowl game.

Sergeant said he didn't expect many traveling fans to make their way across from the States on a 14 hour flight, instead telling SEN that he expected the 56,000-capacity stadium to sell out locally.

"We think it will sell its socks off. We think it'll be a full house and the hottest ticket in town," he said.

"From some of the research work we've done, the feedback has been incredibly strong and supportive.

"We think it's a quality product, a genuine game with cheerleaders and bands."

The first game is expected to be played in December 2016. Teams and specific dates are yet to be announced.

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