The Games Must Go On

UPDATE:  This blog was posted Friday morning (November 2, 2012) and this afternoon, the 2012 ING New York City Marathon was cancelled.  A polarizing topic for sure and arguments on both sides.  Best wishes to New York, New Jersey, and the area for a speedy recovery.

ORIGINAL POST:  Controversy is swirling the marathon world as Hurricane Sandy did more than swirl through the northeast region of our country.  New York made the difficult decision to go ahead and run one of the world's five "Majors" this weekend in New York City--the ING New York City Marathon.  The controversy includes the perception that resources will be supporting a race when they could be doing something much more important--like assisting the victims of the natural disaster.  What about the transportation and logistics for a race that weaves through all the boroughs of the "Big Apple?"  Then there's the insensitivity it in poor taste to run a race when people in the community have lost lives, homes, and loved ones?

On the later topic, there's precedence in the NFL.  Our country has long sought out sports to overcome tragedy.  Paul Tagliabue had a difficult decision after 9/11 and decided NOT to have the weekend's games as scheduled.  He had history on his side as he reflected on NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle's decision to go ahead with NFL Sunday after the assassination of President Kennedy only two days after.  Rozelle would later go on to regret his choice. 

Getty Images

After Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Saints had no choice but NOT to play in their dome as it became a haven for those displaced from the disaster and required repairs before they could play there again.  The irony in the Saints situation is that it appeared that the city seemed to embrace their team even stronger as they decided to stick it out in New Orleans after having to play at LSU and the Alamodome while the city repaired itself and their dome.

Closer to the sport of marathons, after the terrorist attack on Israel's Olympic team, a mere five days later they ran the marathon.  I can only imagine the butterflies Frank Shorter must have felt at the start of that race.  He'd go on to win one of the rare Olympic wins for the USA.
As a runner, getting to New York is not easy.  Qualifying is tougher than the newer and tougher requirements to get into Boston.  If you don't qualify, there's the option of raising several thousand dollars as a charity entrant or the lottery.  There's a reason they call it a lottery.  You have a Powerball's chance of getting in.  I've tried.  I seek the Boston Marathon, but I am not monogamous and also seek her sister, lady New York.  Training for the race itself is several months and 500-600 miles depending on your plan.  Hotels and airfares have been booked.  You've trained.  Needless to say, it's a major disappointment to a runner not to be able to run a race that took all that to get there.  One individuals disappointment pales in comparison to the heartache in the area.

I watched Brian Williams Rock Center show last night showing the devastation in the area.  Women were crying over the loss of loved ones and retired people were lamenting over how they could possibly start over in their twilight years.  I understand the tragedy of it all and feel for everyone that's suffering, but New York is a city of resilience (see 9/11.)  I agree with Mayor Bloomberg's decision to continue on with the race.

From the Washington Post, Bloomberg was quoted as saying, "This city is a city where we have to go on."

I feel it's unlikely that volunteers who have been assigned months ago are diverting away from those helping with the disaster nearby.  The marathon will help galvanize the community just as sports has done before in other tragedies.  As Avery Brundage (President of the International Olympic Committee) said in 1972, "the games must go on."

Author's Footnote:  Getting a medal in a marathon can't compare to the loss of life.  My thoughts are not meant to trivialize the tragedy as my thoughts and prayers are with those impacted by the hurricane.  What are your thoughts?  Post here or on my Facebook page.


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