x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

New York Marathon cancelled in wake of of hurricane deaths

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has scrapped plans for this weekend's marathon to go ahead in the hurricane-ravaged city, just hours after originally giving the event the go-ahead.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg updates the media after Superstorm Sandy
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg updates the media after Superstorm Sandy

The New York Marathon, originally planned to take place this weekend, has been cancelled in deference to the recovery work taking place in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.

Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York, had told a press conference that he was sticking to his guns over plans to hold the race despite the damage inflicted by the weather system.

With more than 40 deaths in New York as a result of Sandy and significant infrastructural damage including mass power outages, there had been criticism of Bloomberg's decision to devote the necessary resources to staging the marathon.

Bloomberg has previously spoken of the symbolic value of going ahead with the event but tonight backed down.

"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," he said in a statement.

"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 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 uproar grew after the New York Road Runners Club, the race organiser, set up generators in Central Park for communications and other operations. It said it had paid for those privately, not with public funds, but some complained that the equipment should have been donated to those without power, electricity or heat.

Mary Wittenberg, the head of the New York Road Runners Club, said that as the controversy grew, she also was concerned about the reception runners may have received along the route.

At a news conference, Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson said it had become clear that "something that every year brings joy and unity to this city had become divisive and painful, and this is a city that's had enough pain in the last week and I don't think we need to add more."