Every year, the Indianapolis 500 is almost perfectly run. Speedway and Indiana State Police have traffic routes figured out precisely so that people can get home as fast as possible. Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials have the prerace traditions planned to the second, and whenever there is a crash during the race, the Holmatro Safety Crew is on the scene in seconds tending to the driver and picking up debris.
The usual precision and fantastic planning is the reason that yesterday’s SNAFU of security was so mind boggling and frustrating.
Hear me out. I understand that IMS wanted to increase their safety after the Boston Marathon bombings and I wholeheartedly understand that increased safety is an integral part of a large event nowadays. However, yesterday’s increased security was poorly planned and led to a lot of angry people. Angry is better than injured or dead due to an attack, but IMS could have made it so that neither happened and not just the latter.
A little back-story: My dad and I usually go up to our seats two hours before the green flag around 10 AM. Normally, we wait in line for five minutes as IMS employees, or “yellow shirts”, check bags and rip off ticket stubs. Normally, we’re in our seats by 10:20 once you include the walk to the gate and the walk to the seats once we’re inside.
Yesterday, we were greeted with an extremely long line. As soon as we stepped in line and saw how slowly it was moving, I said that we’d be lucky to get in by the green flag. We were lucky to get in right as the Star Spangled Banner was being sung after getting in line at the normal time. We were the lucky ones. Check out these pictures taken after we had gotten in and climbed to the top of the grandstands in turn one:
Now, here’s the problem. Yellow shirts were checking every single cooler, a first for the 500. However, with a purchased infield parking pass ($40), you may park your vehicle in the infield at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. An entire car is driven into the infield with NO security check other than maybe a quick glance to see that you’re not running a gun store in the back seat of your vehicle. My point being, if a horrible person wanted to ruin people’s lives and the event, they’re going to find a way to do so, especially considering that entire automobiles can be driven into the track. There were plenty of security precautions at the Boston Marathon, but those terrorist losers still found a way to screw things up.
The second problem is that even though every single cooler was being “checked”, IMS had no extra yellow shirts, or at least it definitely didn’t seem like it compared to past years. Now, as any race goer will tell you, many yellow shirts don’t know what the hell they’re doing to begin with, but when you give them more responsibility, it leads to chaos and likely a lot of loyal fans missing the most important pre-race traditions and possibly even the green flag.
I understand that if something did go horribly wrong, IMS would want to be able to say “we had added safety precautions,” but if you’re going to add a new level of security, DO IT RIGHT. Hire extra employees (I know this costs money, but you’re the World’s Greatest Race Course, you have plenty of it). Close off Georgetown Road earlier than 8 AM and set up barricades that clearly lead to certain gates (many were confused as to what line they were in because no one was doing any directing). This will lead to an orderly line with no cutting (seems juvenile, I know, but some a-holes with no respect and dignity were walking right on up and cutting in, which made the log jam even worse. Plus, police and yellow shirts didn’t do anything about blatant offenders.). Have the security checks farther back in line, a few feet (20-50) away from the ticket takers, that way the two places where people have to stop are farther apart than right next to each other.
Next year, I’m sure that IMS will alleviate some of these issues, but the poor planning this year was pathetic. You can’t just add a whole new level of security without adding more manpower and better organization. The Indy 500 is an event that many have been going to for decades, and this year, some of those people missed important pre-race traditions that make up so much of what the Indianapolis 500 means.
Hell, by the time we finally got to the front, all we did was open the top of our coolers and the workers did a very quick glance before shooing us in so that they could get as many people in before the green flag. Obviously, pushing back the opening ceremonies wasn’t an option because of TV even though thousands still waited at Gate 5 on Georgetown.
Others may argue “you should’ve gone earlier” which is a somewhat good point, but that doesn’t change how poorly organized the security was. Pretty much whatever time you got in line, you were going to have to wait for longer than you should have had to.
The scary reality is that if someone wants to do something bad, they’re going to do something bad. Again, cars are allowed in the track, but everyone’s cooler full of beer and fried chicken was inspected.
If you’re going to try to prevent it, do it efficiently, even if it means paying more one-day workers.
I’m sure IMS knows it by now and that it’ll be better next year, but speedway officials should understand that it takes more work than normal to have more security than normal.