Around 5:15 pm on Friday, November 2, 2012, one of the most curious moments in our sport began. Reuters.com, then ABC Channel 7 in New York announced the cancellation of the marathon. I went to twitter as I received two confirmations from keen observers and as I posted a tweet, the Mayors' office denied the announcement. Less than five minutes later, the Mayor's office and NYRR issued a joint statement, note below.
Around 6:30 pm a press conference with Deputy Mayor Harold Wolfson, CEO of NYRR Mary Wittenberg, and Chairman of the Board of NYRR George Hirsch spoke to assembled media. Wittenberg, distraught, but professional, Hirsch was poised and statesmenlike and Wolfson was, in this writer's eyes, running the show.
More comments to come but here was the theme. Wolfson noted that the city needed to focus on taking care of those harmed by the Marathon, "it was not a time for a celebratory event". Wittenberg and Hirsch, mostly Wittenberg noted that they had considered a ten mile race, an elite race, all kinds of things, but Wolfson stood firm, and said none would honor the theme of the five borough race.
Wittenberg announced that the NYRR was committed to helping the city recover. She was serious and completely on the level on her concern for those hurt by Hurricane Sandy. In the end, many people on both sides misinterpreted signals until it became to hot of a topic for the Mayor's office to handle. " We did not have time to answer questions about the marathon, it had become divisive," was how Wolfson, obviously tired having slept in his office for the past night. Wolfson was right.
This cancelled event will be studied in PR classes and marketing classes for some years to come. Forensically, after a night sleep, I will put a few more thoughts together, but the City should have shut this down on Monday or Tuesday. 30-40,000 marathoners are in town, with no marathon to run. Several million people in the local area have been affected by Hurricane Sandy and while the marathon has been an event where New Yorkers loved the world for a day, it would not have been in 2012. Too many people in New Jersey, New York, Delaware, VA, across the Mid Atlantic are hurting. Many ways to view this, but there was no one, in either the Mayor's office or NYRR, who could see the writing on the wall: the marathon just would not happen this year.
The ING New York City marathon in 2012 was the first marathon cancelled due to social media. I have had more negative comments, from runners and non-runners on the holding of the race. Be careful what you wish for!
Positives? People in the city, runners in the city, money being spent in the city, when, the little guys need it.
More thoughts tomorrow.