Security will be tighter than ever at Super Bowl 44 this Sunday in Miami, Florida, when the Indianapolis Colts face the New Orleans Saints in the National Football League's Championship game. More than 50 law enforcement agencies - some of them having planned for as long as 18 months - will be involved in a massive effort to keep one of the world's biggest sporting events safe from terror attacks.
Recent events, such as the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a U.S.-bound airliner, last month's machine gun attack on a bus carrying the Togo soccer team to the African Cup of Nations in Angola, and the ambush of the Sri Lankan cricket team in Pakistan last year, have raised security concerns.
While there has been no specific threat against the Super Bowl, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says preparations are in place to thwart any terrorist threat or safety problem.
"We are, as was mentioned, working hand-in-hand to ensure that Super Bowl 44 goes off smoothly, safely. We are doing everything we can think of in preparation to make sure that it is a great event," she said.
A vast security effort ranging from Air Force F-16 fighter jets patrolling the skies over Miami to a security buffer zone extending at least 100 meters from Sun Life Stadium will be in place on game day. No one without a ticket or credential will be allowed inside the security zone, where law enforcement personnel and state-of-the-art cameras will screen each person.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy says people attending the Super Bowl understand the need for the extra security.
"Fans understand that this is indeed the Super Bowl - one of the largest events across the world - and so it is different than going to a regular season game. We will have magnetometers throughout the parking lots, so fans will be screened and patted down. We're encouraging fans to arrive early and also come dressed appropriately and not bring a lot of extra stuff with them. More or less, anything that fits in you palm will be allowed, anything larger than that you'll have to leave behind," he said.
Bomb-sniffing dogs and high-tech devices will be used to detect chemical or biological threats. Fans can expect to have their bags carefully searched on the way in, and security officers - many in uniform, but some undercover - will be located throughout the stadium.
New fences have been erected around the facility and traffic has been rerouted to keep cars far from the entrances.
Security precautions will extend for several kilometers, including a 48-kilometer no-fly zone in around the stadium during the game. Surveillance planes will track all aircraft within a 400-kilometer radius of the stadium. And authorities will conduct flyovers to watch for suspicious activity on the ground.
Along the nearby St. John's River, a 23-kilometer safety zone has been created. It will be patrolled by federal, state and local agencies. Any vessels approaching the zone will be monitored. No water traffic will be allowed within 400 meters of the stadium.
Authorities say their goal is to ensure that all those who attend Sunday's game and the tens of thousands of others who have come for the Super Bowl-related festivities will be safe while enjoying their visit to Miami.