Advertisement

Archive for Monday, May 27, 2002

Indy 500 ‘picture perfect’ as far as security concerned

May 27, 2002

Advertisement

— Dozens of mayonnaise jars and unopened beer bottles lined the fence outside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, the results of toughened security measures that were largely invisible.

Additional uniformed police officers were the only overt signs of heightened security for fans at the Indianapolis 500.

Indiana State Police reported no arrests during the race, and Sgt. Raymond Poole described security as "picture perfect."

All organizers of big sports events have taken security measures to new heights since Sept. 11. At the Super Bowl and Olympics, fans had to walk through metal detectors, with security and military personnel checking bags.

Organizers of the Indy 500, though, said they merely improved a security plan that was already one of the best.

Most of those measures were invisible, said Peter Beering, the city's terrorism preparedness coordinator.

Security officials at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway said they believed they could ensure safety for the more than 400,000 fans without making the track look like a military compound.

Fans said they had succeeded.

Brett Eiler, an airline pilot from Chicago, waited less than five minutes in line as security officials searched coolers and handbags. Glass jars were confiscated.

Searches at other large events should be so thorough and yet so quick, said Eiler, who was celebrating his 40th birthday with his wife and four friends in matching T-shirts and straw hats.

"It was convenient, it wasn't a hassle, it was great," he said.

Others said they felt as safe at the 558-acre track as they do anywhere else.

"I trust those involved have handled everything OK," said John Jessup, 66, of Knightstown, who has attended the Indy 500 for 40 years. "I always get treated real well out here."

Hundreds more uniformed and plainclothes police officers than years past were in the crowd Sunday, and high tech surveillance equipment was used.

"There's a lot more police. I don't remember them being on top of the grandstands before," said Sean Daniel, 33, of Dayton, Ohio. "Of course, now we're conscious of these things."

There was no ban on small aircraft or blimps flying over the track, mostly because security officials said they are so familiar with the pilots in the area that they would immediately know if something was amiss.

Fans were to be limited to coolers up to 14 inches wide and 14 inches high and a small backpack, though many clearly carried more on little red wagons they pulled into the track.

David and Mona Witt of South Bend, toting a backpack, cooler and a plastic bag full of goodies, were surprised the security measures weren't more noticeable. They said someone glanced inside their cooler as they entered, but that was all.

Mona Witt, who has been coming to the race for 30 years, admitted being a bit shaken when she considered what a target the Brickyard would be.

"I was standing there for a moment and I looked up at all the metal and concrete, and there was just this moment of fear," she said. "It was just a passing fear, but it was there."

Commenting has been disabled for this item.