Flip-flopping for a politician is routine and typically frowned upon. But Mayor Michael Bloomberg's call in cancelling the 2012 New York Marathon was ultimately the proper decision.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, people were displaced, starving and digging through dumpsters, as reported by NBC 4 New York. Under those circumstances, and with many people still without power, it seems strange to conduct an athletic event featuring thousands upon thousands of people not directly affected—and well-nourished—to endure such a physically demanding ordeal.
As Alexandra Sifferlin of TIME reported on Thursday, the transportation situation to get to the Staten Island starting point was still not figured out when the race was still scheduled to go on.
Not only might that have put the safety of the runners at risk, but it would just be simply bizarre to allocate resources that could be used on displaced New Yorkers rather than athletes trying to get to a race.
A statement released by the mayor explained the reasoning for the last-minute cancellation (h/t CNN):
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. We cannot allow a controversy over an athletic event...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 mayor's office also tweeted out what was a nice gesture from the New York Road Runners in the midst of having their race cancelled:
The New York Road Runners will donate food and supplies from the marathon to #Sandy relief efforts.— NYC Mayor's Office (@NYCMayorsOffice) November 2, 2012
While the sudden switch in plans no doubt diverted some runners away from the main event of their New York City itinerary—not to mention a decent chunk of income from appearance fees—it was necessary.
The positives that have resulted from it in the form of prospective runners volunteering to help out victims puts a priority on human life rather than athletics, which is how it should be.
Meb Keflezighi, the most notable American runner and 2004 Olympic silver medalist in the Marathon, couldn't have more adequately summed up the context of the situation. Jere Longman of The New York Times quoted Keflezighi in a story on Saturday:
Any inconveniences the cancellation causes me or the thousands of runners who trained and traveled for this race pales in comparison to the challenges faced by people in NYC and its vicinity in the aftermath of Sandy.
For such a successful multi-billionaire businessman like Bloomberg to have the sense to call off the race despite whatever revenue was at stake is both surprising and somewhat relieving.
While the issue still remains divisive, the cancellation of the race sends the proper message, which is that the consequences of the natural disaster are taking top priority even ahead of one of the city's biggest athletic events.
It would have been ideal for Bloomberg and the city to reach this logical conclusion before Saturday in order to keep runners from making the expensive trip.
Nevertheless, the consequences mean that even more resources and people will be allocated to the relief efforts, which is more important than any sporting event could ever be.