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Security Is Tight As Penn Relays Get Underway

Jim Melwert Jim Melwert
Jim is a "morning drive" reporter for KYW Newsradio 1060, bringing...
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By Jim Melwert and Oren Liebermann

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – On the inside, the Penn Relays are all about track and field.

“It’s like that big track meet you wait all year for,” said Daphne Jones, sitting in the stands, waiting to see her daughter. “This is it.”

20,000 athletes will race in front of more than 100,000 fans over all three days of competition.  For the athletes, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime.

“I like the exposure. It’s a good experience being able to run against competition from all over the world,” said Rachael Brown, running for a school in the Bahamas.

But on the outside, the oldest and largest track meet in the country is all about security.

“We want people to feel safe, and we’re going to make them safe,” said Maureen Rush, Executive Vice President of the University of Pennsylvania. “So we have all levels of security.”

From Penn Security at the gates to Philadelphia Police on the streets, officers surrounded Franklin Field.  Only a week and a half after the Boston marathon bombings, the Penn Relays wanted to focus on safety.

“From the last time I was here, there is definitely a difference,” said Brad Callahan, head coach of Whippany Park High School. “The lines are a little bit longer.”

Bag checks created longer lines at the entrance gates, and security guards wanded fans coming in.

“You see more presence of security people down here, but you know, that’s fine. That’s the way it should be,” Callahan said.

The runners say the security is worth the wait so, once inside, they can focus on the races.

Rush points out security at Penn Relays has been tight for years and this year will be no exception:

“It’s going to be similar to what provisions are for TSA at the airport, no one should in this environment — and I mean this environment in the US environment, or anywhere internationally — don’t leave bags and walk away.”

Rush says there will be no exceptions to security guidelines.

Backpacks and large bags will not be permitted into Franklin Field or the Relay Carnival Village for spectators. Purses will be searched.

Participants are allowed to bring in backpacks; but they’re reminded leave extra time for thoroughly searches, and those bags will only be allowed in through designated participant entrances.

And any bags containing food must be smaller than 12″ x 12″ x 6″ and in clear plastic bags. Sealed plastic water bottles and cardboard juice boxes are permitted inside the clear plastic bags.

Coolers, glass bottles and cans will not be permitted.

FROM PENN SECURITY OFFICIALS:

Please note, these guidelines will be strictly enforced:

*Backpacks and large bags (gym bags, duffel bags, etc.) WILL NOT be permitted into Franklin Field or the Relay Carnival Village for spectators.

*Participants (athletes, coaches, team medical personnel) WILL be permitted to bring in backpacks; these bags will be thoroughly checked, and will only be allowed in via the designated participant entrances.

*ALL bags containing food must be smaller than 12″ x12″ x 6″ and in clear plastic bags. Sealed plastic water bottles and cardboard juice boxes are permitted inside the clear plastic bags.

*Coolers, glass bottles and cans WILL NOT be permitted.

*Animals are not permitted except service animals.

*Contraband items such as weapons, flag poles, sticks, and other poles are not permitted.

*Barbeque items and any open flames are not permitted.

*Smoking is not permitted in Franklin Field, per City of Philadelphia code.

*Penn Athletics is working with Penn’s Division of Public Safety which is responsible for the security of the event. The Division of Public Safety will have police and security personnel at every entrance (including athlete entrances) to thoroughly check and wand contents of bags and your person as you enter the Penn Relays.

*This procedure will take time, so please allow for ample time to get into the facility each day. This goes for athletes, as well; participants should plan ahead to ensure ample time to clerk for races.

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