NEW YORK — From bomb-sniffing dogs to pat-downs of fans, security will be tight at 13 NFL games and the U.S. Open tennis tournament Sunday, the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The two men in charge of safety at those events say any extra efforts, coordinated with the FBI and local police, are not so much a result of Sunday happening to be Sept. 11 - but rather because of what happened on that date in 2001, and the changes made in the aftermath to protect people at various sports sites.
"From our perspective, while the 10-year anniversary does fall on our first weekend - and we're sensitive to that - if it didn't, we would still be sensitive, because we've been doing this since 9/11 of '01," Jeffrey Miller, the NFL's chief security officer, said. "Right after that happened, we put these things into place."
Miller and Michael Rodriguez, the U.S. Open's director of security, said they are in regular contact with the Department of Homeland Security and, as of Wednesday morning, had not been informed of any specific, credible threats to their arenas.
Whether at NFL games or U.S. Open matches - or at any of the dozens of college football and Major League Baseball games on the schedule - sports are one of the main ways Americans will be together in large numbers on the anniversary weekend. The NFL's first test will come Thursday night, when Green Bay hosts New Orleans to start the regular season.
There are various commemorations planned, such as the white "9-11-01" that the U.S. Tennis Association will be painting next to the blue court used for the men's and women's finals at the Open; the "We Shall Not Forget" logos on foul-territory grass at baseball parks; and the "Salute to America" concert with patriotic music at the NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Richmond on Saturday.
"Sporting events are their own unique attractive target for terrorist groups. We have security at the top level that you can have it. We want all our fans protected on Day 1, whether it's the fifth year after 9/11 or the seventh year after 9/11. We want the same comfort level for our fans, for our patrons, for our players," the U.S. Open's Rodriguez said.
"If there was a threat specifically against the U.S. Open, the USTA and the NYPD would probably postpone the event temporarily," he added. "We would be open to that and there would be discussions about it."
Information gathered in the past indicated al Qaeda had considered attempting attacks on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and, more generally, at big gatherings in the United States.
Nearly 65,000 spectators attend each NFL game, on average; the U.S. Open's main stadium holds about 23,000.
"Over the years, we've learned, and we know, that, given the way we play our games simultaneously ... it does present an attractive target, whether it's a terrorist group or a homegrown violent extremist that would want to act out," said the NFL's Miller, who also mentioned the more-recent possibility of someone seeking to avenge Osama bin Laden's death in May.