After Criticism, Bloomberg Cancels The NYC Marathon

After another day of criticism for his decision to allow the New York City Marathon to go forward, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced late this afternoon that the event would be canceled, although it may be held at a later date:

After days of intensifying pressure from runners, politicians and the general public to cancel the New York City Marathon in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, city officials and the event’s organizers decided Friday afternoon that the race would not be held Sunday, according to a person familiar with the decision.

Such a move would be historic — the marathon has been held every year since 1970, including the race in 2001 held two months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks — but seemed inevitable as opposition to the marathon swelled. Critics said that it was in poor taste to hold a foot race through the five boroughs while so many people in the area are still suffering from the storm’s damages, and that city services should focus on storm relief, not the marathon. Proponents of the marathon — notably Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Mary Wittenberg, director of the marathon — said the race would provide a needed morale boost, as well as an economic one.

Among the many details that remain unclear are whether race would be postponed or canceled entirely and how popular the plan would be among the field of nearly 50,000 runners who were expected to compete in Sunday’s marathon, thousands of whom traveled to New York from other countries.

Here’s Bloomberg’s statement:

“The Marathon has been an integral part of New York City’s life for 40 years and is an event tens of thousands of New Yorkers participate in and millions more watch.  While holding the race would not require diverting resources from the recovery effort, it is clear that it has become the source of controversy and division.  The marathon has always brought our city together and inspired us with stories of courage and determination.  We would not want a cloud to hang over the race or its participants, and so we have decided to cancel it. 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 will have additional information in the days ahead for participants.”

This strikes me as the right decision, Bloomberg’s earlier statement, and the diversion of resources that would have been involved in letting the event go forward on Sunday, were simply nonsensical in the light of what the city is dealing with right now. Comparing this with the fact that the race was held in 2001 was irrelevant because that year the race took place a full two months after the September 11th attacks, by which point the city had at least had a chance to move past the worst aspects of the attacks. Holding the marathon this weekend would have been comparable to holding it on September 16, 2001.

FILED UNDER: Natural Disasters, Sports, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    I think it’s a shame. I think he was right the first time. But in the grand scheme of human events. . .

  2. Janis Gore says:

    Postponement makes the best sense. Now we need to pressure the airlines to honor the runners’ tickets when it takes place.

  3. @michael reynolds:

    Going forward with the marathon would have meant that the Verazano-Narrows Bridge, the only actual road access onto Staten Island (and the only access until the Staten Island Ferry resumes operation) would have been shut down starting some time Saturday night and for the better part of Sunday.

    I think it was the right thing to do. As I said, going forward would’ve been live holding the Marathon on the Sunday after the 9/11 attacks, but perhaps even worse because Sandy has actually had a more substantial impact on NYC’s transportation infrastructure than 9/11 did.

  4. legion says:

    Good. I understand the impulse to “carry on” in the face of things like this, but there are just too many people still in danger from lack of basic needs/services right now. Limited resources are needed elsewhere for a while longer yet.

  5. @michael reynolds:

    Correction. Okay, you can also get into S.I. via the Goethels Bridge, but that connects to New Jersey not the rest of New York City.

  6. James Joyner says:

    This just shows what pussies Democrats are. When New York had a real mayor, like Rudy Guilani, they would have shown more backbone.

  7. Janis Gore says:

    @James Joyner: Snotwad.

  8. alkali says:

    I’m not particularly disappointed that the marathon was cancelled, but the angry demands that it be cancelled seemed to be founded on magical thinking and the need to find someone to blame.

    “What if all the runners went to the starting line, and when the starting gun fired they turned around and started helping with the cleanup?” Gosh, that would be a … I think the technical term is clusterf**k.

    “What if all the mylar blankets that were bought for the marathon were distributed to homeless families?” Well, then they would have a bunch of useless mylar blankets.

    I look forward to the demand that all theaters, museums, libraries, and TV studios in Manhattan close so that they do not divert resources from relief efforts.

  9. Janis Gore says:

    If New Yorkers want to show a “CAN DO” attitude, the best thing they can do right now is take care of their own people.

  10. rudderpedals says:

    They could have kept the lower deck open to vehicles and reversed the marathon. Not having the runners tote gasoline to the strandees in SI with empty tanks is a real missed opportunity.

  11. James Joyner says:

    @rudderpedals: If only there were a more efficient way of transporting gasoline than having thousands of people carry a tiny amount of it while trying to run 26 miles . . . .

  12. rudderpedals says:

    @James Joyner: Yes you’re right. Air dropping hand pumps to the Staten Island gas stations that don’t have power would be more efficient than using what might have been hundreds of hero-volunteer neighbors. The powers that be are pussies and lack vision and I think you nailed it there too even though we got there by different paths.

  13. Janis Gore says:

    I like Bloomberg’s couching this as “the race is causing divisions ” rather than “Man, how could I be so stupid?!”

  14. Janis Gore says:

    I just saw an interview with a runner on TWC. He was most peeved that Bloomberg hadn’t called it off sooner.

    Now, I wonder why the racer’s organization didn’t call it off itself. Perhaps too wrapped up in its own concerns?

  15. @Janis Gore:

    Once it was clear by Tuesday or early Wednesday how extensive the damage was, they should’ve pulled the plug then.

  16. Janis Gore says:

    The reports I’ve seen started coming in early morning on Tuesday — around 2-3 a.m..

  17. Janis Gore says:

    What is the entry fee for the marathon? Does it go to the organization?

    They seemed a little ticked themselves during their press conference. I’m sure they’ve been getting some heat, too.

  18. Janis Gore says:

    When Katrina hit, our town was inundated with refugees. We’re only about 5,000 people.

    I called the county sheriff’s office and asked how I could best help. Kathy aimed my efforts at a local church. They had a large recreation facility they were using as a shelter.

    Once they got past the sheets and towels (wash them before donating, if you’d like to be kind), they needed phone cards so people could call their loved ones. The ones they wanted cost $15.

    My family coordinated a dinner for them — homemade chicken and dumplings, bread, a salad bar, so these poor displaced people could have SOME choice.

    Do what you can.

  19. @Janis Gore:

    Postponement makes the best sense. Now we need to pressure the airlines to honor the runners’ tickets when it takes place.

    How about YOU buy them new tickets instead of demanding everyone else give money away?

  20. Janis Gore says:

    If I were Al Gore rather than Janis Gore, I would.

  21. @Doug Mataconis:

    Correction. Okay, you can also get into S.I. via the Goethels Bridge, but that connects to New Jersey not the rest of New York City.

    There’s also the Bayonne Bridge and the Outerbridge Crossing.

  22. Janis Gore says:

    I hadn’t quite realized that people were already there, Stormy. I do live in Louisiana now, you know. We is backward.

    No reason why the airlines couldn’t honor a ticket if the holder couldn’t travel because of duress at the other end of the line.

  23. Janis Gore says:

    We’re talking NYC. Surely they have standbys at every other airport in the US.

  24. Janis Gore says:

    I love NYC. I had strawberries and cream with a half of champagne outside the Stanton Hotel, I believe it was, right across from the Metropolitan, when I moved there at 22. I stayed for for 3-4 years.

    It was a long time ago.

  25. @Stormy Dragon:

    Fair point, and as someone who grew up in Central Jersey I should’ve remembered those.

    But the Verazano is the only real way for NYC authorities to get into S.I. without having to take a long detour into another jurisdiction.

  26. Tim says:

    This is just another sad example of politicians playing the “race” card. /snark

  27. Janis Gore says:

    Stanford, maybe.

  28. Janis Gore says:

    @Tim: Nonsense, chile. The president came from Hawaii, which is certainly not part of the US, much less the political oligarchy, and certainly not part of of the Northeastern Corridor.

  29. Janis Gore says:

    Here, Sugar, let me pat your back.

  30. @Doug Mataconis:

    In terms of disaster recovery the bridges to “the mainland” are probably more important than a bridge to another Island that’s also trying to recover.

  31. @Janis Gore:

    No reason why the airlines couldn’t honor a ticket if the holder couldn’t travel because of duress at the other end of the line.

    Because if you buy a ticket for plane A and then at the last minute want to switch the plane B, the airline still has costs associated with flying the now empty seat on Plane A around. There are tickets that allow for the possibility of having to cancel at the last minute. Most people don’t take that option because they’d rather save a few bucks, and I see no reason to expect the airlines to provide a service that the customers explicitly refused to pay for.

  32. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Of course, you’re absolutely right about the costs associated with the empty seat because no airline has ever sold seats to more people than they had seats for. No… wait… I don’t think that’s right… if only we could check somehow.

  33. Janis Gore says: