The New York Post today tapped into the anger and backlash generated by the decision to push ahead with the ING New York City Marathon on Sunday, while millions of people have no electricity and thousands have lost homes and possessions.
The paper featured on its front page a picture of two large generators, set up to provide electricity for the finish area in Central Park, rather than the families struggling to recover from Superstorm Sandy.
Sentiment seems to be growing that the marathon organizers and Mayor Michael Bloomberg got it wrong when they announced the marathon would be good for the city and the recovery. Critics rightly raise the question about directing police and other resources to support runners in their outing from Staten Island to Central Park.
Kris LoPresto, writing for the Huffington Post, shared his view as a registered runner: “Furthermore, I don’t want to have streets cleared along the marathon route unless every street has been cleared of downed trees and power lines. I don’t want to be handed a free cup of Gatorade unless every single family in Rockaway has the same luxury. I don’t want people cheering me on when nurses who saved thousands of lives did so in complete darkness. I don’t want to reach that finish line before the city I love and live in crosses that finish line and cleans up after this natural disaster. I love the NYC Marathon. It changed my life. 75 hours and 401 miles later; I say to hell with it. Just postpone the damn thing.”
It’s a widely shared sentiment. One news poll, with more than 16,000 responses, showed support to “cancel the marathon” at 87%.
In my view, Bloomberg and the officials in the New York Road Runners Club faced a lose-lose decision. The marathon seems to be a trivial pursuit compared to the massive rebuilding and recovery yet to be done. Yet, it also has the power to generate millions of dollars for the city, help raise money for the recovery and lift the spirits of visitors and residents.
The recovery will take months or years, perhaps a break for sport is time well-spent.