American football's first world championship game, later called Super Bowl I, was a humble affair. On Jan. 15, 1967, the Green Bay Packers stomped the Kansas City Chiefs 35 to 10 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum -- that was only two-thirds full (it remains the only Super Bowl not to sell out). There was no jumbotron. The halftime show was a marching band. Tickets were $12, an outrageous fee in 1967. By contrast, today’s live sporting events -- NFL games in particular and especially the Super Bowl -- have become a singular spectacle and a huge undertaking for organizers and security personnel.
When this year's spectacle -- Super Bowl XLVIII (48) -- kicks off in New Jersey's MetLife Stadium this Sunday, Feb. 2, the crowds will be watched by more than 100 law enforcement agencies, including U.S. Customs SWAT, that have been preparing for this event for months. And this week operations ramped up as New York City turned 14 blocks of Broadway into “Super Bowl Boulevard.” Organizers predict more than 1 million visitors between opening on Wednesday and the game on Sunday.
On Broadway, tourists and locals can go sledding, participate in daily events and get autographs from NFL players. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio made an appearance on opening day. And high above all the festivities, helicopters are circling and watching -- officials are trying to prevent a repeat of the Boston Marathon bombing last year, while also keeping an eye out for bigger threats.
Top officials from several of the participating law enforcement agencies -- such as the New York Police Department (NYPD), the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and New Jersey State Police -- held a press conference on Wednesday to provide details about their security efforts, where New York Police Commissioner Bill Bratton told the press that so far, security had not received threats surrounding the event, and expressed confidence in their ability to both predict and react to terrorism.
New Jersey Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes said MetLife Stadium and the surrounding area are “locked down” by the installation of a 2.5-mile-long fence. And all vehicles passing through this fence are scanned with thermal imagers.
A “public-safety compound’’ was created on site that includes 120 workstations where security personnel will monitor operations and assess threats that might surface on Sunday. Officers there -- and at another command center in lower Manhattan -- will be watching video feeds from more than 2,000 security cameras.
There will also be 700 uniformed New Jersey State Police officers at the game, Fuentes said, along with hundreds more officers monitoring transit stations. Some officers at those locations, like at Penn Station, are scanning the area with radiation detectors.
To help maintain security at the event, items fans are allowed to carry into the stadium will be heavily restricted. And when it comes to suspicious activity, even the hundreds of camera feeds can't catch everything. So at the press conference, George Venizelos of the FBI stressed to the public: “if you see something, say something.”