Amid growing questions about whether the New York City Marathon should be held days after Hurricane Sandy left so much devastation in its wake, mayor Michael Bloomberg said: "The marathon will go on."
Bloomberg said Wednesday that given the tens of thousands of visitors expected, the restoration of power, the reopening of Central Park where the race ends, the improving conditions of the course's main roads, and the event's economic and emotional impact, the race will be run.
"It's a great event for New York and for those who were lost, you have to believe they would want the economy and city to go forward for those left behind," he said.
Bloomberg said he might ask race officials to put a time limit on "stragglers" in the race to ensure their safety.
"The bottom line is, some people said you shouldn't run the marathon," he said. "There are an awful lot of small businesses that depend on these people. We have to have an economy."
Opposition has been growing on social media to Bloomberg's decision. A Facebook page "Cancel the 2012 NYC Marathon" was created Wednesday.
As one opponent, Clarence Eckerson Jr., posted, "As a NYRR member who has run the marathon, it is RIDICULOUS they are even considering running it. It is a slap in the face to city residents. There are so many logistical problems to just cancel this, never mind the human suffering. What will it look like when tens of thousands of people still don't have power but we can use thousands of city worker manpower to run a marathon?"
Blogger y2kemo wrote on his site that he's waited three years for a spot in the marathon and though he has one this year, he won't be running. "Look, I was in NYC on 9/11. Sandy is not 9/11. I remember how long it took to get things up and running post-9/11. Sandy did way more damage. Frankly, there is no way the city is going (or should try) to rebound from the storm in just a few days," he wrote.
Amid this opposition, event organizers have emphasized the marathon's larger impact. "I've always said that the marathon is something much more than a race," New York Road Runners president and CEO Mary Wittenberg said Wednesday. "Once again, it never seems more true than this year, as was the case after 9/11. Our whole focus now is on delivering an event that can aid in New York's recovery.
"To us the marathon really epitomizes the spirit of New York City, the vitality, the tenacity, the determination of New Yorkers, and now our every effort is to once again tell the world that â?¦ New York City, as the mayor would say, is open for business, and we welcome the support of the world at this trying time."
Wittenberg cited the estimated $350 economic impact for the city during a typical marathon year, and its sizable charitable efforts â?? $34 million raised last year. "So all that positive impact on top of sending the message to the world of the resiliency of New York City, those are the reasons this event is so important to New York City," Wittenberg said.
Given the demands on the city, the debate remains whether the city's resources should be focused elsewhere given the storm's deadly impact. New York governor Andrew Cuomo said in a news conference Wednesday the state's death toll has risen to 26 people.
Major logistical concerns remain, include widespread power outages and transportation issues with the damage to the city's subway system and the limited service at area airports. About 18,000-20,000 international runners were expected to among the 47,000 participants.
Meb Keflezighi, the 2009 men's champion, said he was supposed to arrive in New York on Thursday but had to reschedule his flight from the West Coast. He is now planning to arrive Saturday morning via a red-eye flight.
"Hopefully we can be the sunshine of what's going on with the storm," Keflezighi said Wednesday.
After finishing first among American women in her 2011 debut, Molly Pritz, from Boulder, Colo., said she arrived in New York on Sunday night before the storm hit. In its aftermath, she's trained inside on treadmills, though even that had its challenges.
"It's less about the wind and rain and more about trees falling down on people," Pritz said. "It's just hazardous. I figured it would be better to be safe inside." When her hotel's fitness center was closed on Monday because of safety issues with its windows, she called about 15 other gyms before finding one at a nearby hotel.
Amid the minor inconveniences and major heartbreak, she is pleased the marathon will be run. "So long as the conditions are safe, it seems like sporting events and group activities bring the city together or the world together, so I think the New York City Marathon shows off the spirit of the city like no other," Pritz said. "I think after tragedy the best thing we can do is come together and celebrate and try to work together to try to create a positive experience through all the aftermath. â?¦ I think positive energy in the city is nothing but helpful."
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Read the original story: New York Marathon is on for Sunday, mayor says