[UPDATE BELOW—IT'S CANCELLED] Outrage over Mayor Bloomberg's decision to go forward with Sunday's Marathon is spreading, with a chorus of presumptive mayoral candidates hopping on the bandwagon. The latest to chime in is City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who issued a statement today saying, "The decision to move forward with the marathon is not a decision I would have made. That said, I think we need to look forward and continue to focus on the task at hand — helping those without electricity, food and water and rebuilding our city.” In other words, DON'T let this debate over the Marathon distraction become a distraction!
One of her challengers for the crown went a lot further. Here's de Blasio: “The pain and suffering still unfolding in our neighborhoods is too deep for words. I walked more streets with Councilman Oddo in Staten Island today, and listened to people who still remain without power, food and water - so near the race’s starting point. It's convinced me the needs are simply too great to divert any resources from the recovery. Lodgings reserved for marathoners must be re-allocated to utility workers. We need to postpone the Marathon and keep our focus where it belongs: on public safety and vital relief operations.”
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer also piled on earlier, saying, "The prudent course of action here — postpone the marathon, come back a different day." Staten Island Councilmember James Oddo put things a little differently, declaring, "If they take one first responder from Staten Island to cover this marathon, I will scream. We have people with no homes and no hope right now." But our favorite was City Comptroller and would-be mayor John Liu, who was for the marathon before he was against it:
Earlier this week, I stated support for keeping the New York City Marathon, which is a huge economic generator for the City, on schedule assuming that the City’s infrastructure would be able to support the race and New Yorkers’ safety can be ensured. Unfortunately, it has become apparent over the last couple of days that there are still large parts of the City where recovery efforts are falling short, where fellow New Yorkers remain hungry and cold, and where there is now more and more looting.
As I have traveled throughout the boroughs since Sandy struck, it has become clear that the Marathon would compromise the City’s ability to protect and provide for the residents most affected by the hurricane. Recovery efforts must come before the Marathon and it's time to re-evaluate whether the resources needed for the Marathon can really be spared on Sunday.
To paraphrase: "Earlier this week I didn't realize what popular opinion would be at the end of the week. I am no calibrating my pandering accordingly." But forget the politicians—what's really going to hurt Bloomberg's chances to allot himself a fourth term is WFAN’s Mike Francesa. (We're told he's a big sports guy radio dude.) On air today, Francesa predicted that "this will be something that the mayor will regret forever if he doesn’t change his mind. It is that big a calamity. You have cops now having to man gas stations because of fights that are breaking out because of the gas shortages. You just had the mayor come up and tell you that they’re still finding bodies in Staten Island. How are you running a marathon when you’re still finding bodies and the city is still dark?" Easy: You just run faster.
Rumors are swirling this afternoon that the race will be cancelled. A reporter for Fox Business News says that Wall Street traders have inside knowledge that the marathon will be cancelled (and they KNEW about 9/11, right?) and an LA Times reporter totally has a cop friend who says it's cancelled. But you'll know the other shoe is about to drop if you see a sponsor pull out. Either, way, let's keep retweeting unsubstantiated rumors until they come true!
The main online petition against the Marathon has accumulated another 10,000 signatures just this afternoon, and currently numbers 26,000. And a growing number of participants are pledging to ride the official Marathon buses to the starting line in Staten Island and volunteer there instead of running the race.
Update 5:23 p.m.:Aaaaand she's cancelled. Here's the statement from Mayor's office:
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.”
Sweet, what can we get cancelled next? Seriously, is it even appropriate to observe Valentine's Day in the wake of all this disaster?