New York cancels marathon

Organizers said the event would help post-hurricane reconstruction efforts, but the controversy grew too large.

By Bruce Kennedy Nov 2, 2012 4:11PM

While New York continues to tally personal and economic losses in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, the city finally put an end Friday to what was literally a running controversy: Should the the New York City Marathon continue as scheduled on Sunday?

After a day of would-they-or-wouldn't-they speculation, city officials decided late Friday to cancel the event. The decision directly addressed very vocal outrage about whether New York should divert essential funds and resources to a race when parts of the city remain torn apart, without power and other essential utilities. There was also the issue of holding what's usually a festive event in the midst of an ongoing tragedy.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said earlier Friday that he understood the backlash over his decision to go ahead with the event. But he said he's also considered the city's financial future.

"I think some people said you shouldn't run the marathon," Bloomberg said at a news conference earlier this week. "There's an awful lot of small businesses that depend on these people. We have to have an economy. There's lots of people that have come here. It's a great event for New York, and I think for those who were lost, you've got to believe they would want us to have an economy and have a city go on for those that they left behind."

Bloomberg later cited the controversy and division in explaining why he changed his mind. "We would not want a cloud to hang over the race or its participants, and so we have decided to cancel it," he said in a statement. "We cannot allow a controversy over an athletic event -- even one as meaningful as this -- to distract attention away from all the critically important work that is being done to recover from the storm and get our city back on track."

The New York Road Runners organization says the race generated a record $340 million for the city in 2011, "significantly impacting tourism, tax revenues, and the economy."

Midtown skyline from Central Park, NYC -- Agnieszka Gaul, Vetta, Getty Images

Event organizers had planned to use the marathon to raise money for hurricane relief efforts by donating $1 million and securing more than $1.5 million from the event's sponsors, which include ING as the title sponsor, Foot Locker (FL), Tiffany & Co. (TIF), United Airlines, UPS (UPS), Time Warner Cable (TWC) and The New York Times (NYT).

But some analysts had their doubts about whether the marathon will be the money generator some people expect. "Most of these events, their impact is dramatically overstated," says William Kern, an economics professor at Western Michigan University who has researched the economics of sports. "We often find that these mega-events, as they're called, produce economic impacts that are a small fraction of what’s originally claimed."

Kern says that while television and media coverage of the marathon are important for New York’s image and tourism industry, the bottom line economically is whether the event actually brings people into the city -- people who will spend money while taking part in marathon-related events.

And he notes, there's more going on than just economics regarding the decision to hold the marathon. "There's some question, is this a trivial event relative to the suffering and hardship," he says, adding that one main question is about the cost of the resources that the city commits to the event. "Presumably there's police protection and traffic control and a variety of things that are very pressing issues for the city otherwise. So the question really is what are the relative benefit-cost ratios of these different uses of those scarce resources?”

The Road Runners' Wittenberg said the issue wasn't about running anymore, but about helping the city. "This is one of those decisions that I think in the end really came from a place of how can we pro-active help rebuild and help this city?" she said. "So if we can raise money through relief efforts, if we can help give the city a positive lift and help turn the corner to rebuilding, then that’s really the purpose of the marathon this year."

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Nov 2, 2012 6:05PM

Bruce Kennedy, you know there were no "days of would-they-or-wouldn't-they speculation."  Mayor Bloomberg was clear and adamant that the event would go on.  When he was smacked in the face with a blizzard of objections he then changed his mind.  You do your journalistic reputation no good by trying to put a smiley face on the Mayor's incompetence.


But hey, its your carrier---

Nov 2, 2012 6:27PM

There are still people needing are an idiot.


People are going hungry, no power, still finding the people that died and you want to go ahead with the jerk.


His comment that he is just following what they did after 9-11 is pure stupidity.


9-11 was isolated to a small business area, that yes it killed 3,000 people but nobody was waiting for days later to be rescued, feed or to have power turned back on......Mayor you are a bonehead.

Nov 2, 2012 6:03PM
Power to the People

No one is stepping up and taking charge including the soda czar

Nov 2, 2012 11:45PM
Bloomberg is going crazy! People I know still don't have power!
Nov 3, 2012 11:44PM
I would say mayor Bludnerbess figured it would not be a good idea based on who is STILL hurting. A billionaire can not have the same ideals about what is and what isn't good for normal folks. His advisors had to convince him.
Nov 3, 2012 1:06PM
he' not clueless, stupid or dumb. you dont get to have his money by being that. he's completely ruthless. no telling how many kick backs he was gonna get from the event. it's all about the money with these chumps. get it?
Nov 3, 2012 10:41AM

i just saw on pmsnbc some racist black woman ranting about bobby jindal saying the govt is just

getting in the way of recovery and not doing enough and her and other left libs said he should shut up!

no you shut up! after the last few hurricanes jindal made sure there was food and water for everyone

who needed it and was on top of the energy companies to get the power back on! after the last hurricane

i could get gas and ice and water and food if i needed it. i had power back on in 4 days but my area was hit

hard so that wasn't too bad! these big rich liberals living in their penthouses in new york should shut their

traps since they never know what they are talking about or just LIE to make Obama and big govt look good

cause they believe in SOCIALISM! left wing liberal PMSNBC! IS A JOKE!

Nov 2, 2012 5:45PM
Two bad mayoral decisions in the same week--running the marathon when his people are suffering and endorsing Obama due  to climate change.  What's he going to do next week?
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