Kerre McIvor

Kerre McIvor is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Kerre Woodham: Marathon effort led astray in city

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The Hudson River swells and rises over the banks of the Hoboken, N.J. waterfront. Photo / AP
The Hudson River swells and rises over the banks of the Hoboken, N.J. waterfront. Photo / AP

Just when I thought forecasters couldn't get any more hyperbolic in their descriptions of atmospheric events than weather bomb, along came the Frankenstorm.

Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the east coast of the United States after first tearing through Jamaica, Haiti and Cuba.

I was booked to leave for New York on Thursday as I'm helping to escort a tour of runners and supporters to the marathon. For many of them it's the trip of a lifetime.

They have spent the whole year training - and saving - to run this iconic road race and I really felt for them as they watched the news broadcasts nervously.

They knew the people of New York were more important than any road race and they had insurance but, as I know from my marathoning days, when you get this close, the only thing worse than the thought of running it is being told you cannot run it.

The emails from the marathon organisers were positive - most of the course runs through the undamaged parts of the city but there were concerns about the city's infrastructure with the subway out of action.

There were concerns, too, about getting the airports up and operational and the planes where they should be.

The traditional Halloween Parade was cancelled and we all held our breath. But then word came through: the Mayor of New York had given the go-ahead for the marathon to proceed.

I thought his comments were a little insensitive.

When making the announcement, he pointed out the positive economic impact the marathon had on the city and said you had to believe that those who were lost to the storm would "want to have an economy and have a city go on for those left behind".

Once we arrived in New York on Friday, the real extent of the hardship hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers are experiencing became apparent. They are without power, water, and food and many in our group felt uneasy about taking part in a sporting event while half of the city was suffering.

Over the next 24 hours there were growing calls from New Yorkers for the race to be called off - and you could understand why.

I can't help but think Mayor Bloomberg got what he wanted; 40,000 runners and supporters are here now, spending in the hotels and cafes and the shops, keeping Bloomberg's economy going, while at the same time he can be seen to be sensitive to the wishes of his people by calling off the race.

Had the decision been made earlier, as it should have been, thousands of runners could have stayed at home, and insurance companies would have paid them out. The city's strained infrastructure would have had 40,000 fewer people to support.

Bloomberg was there on the ground. He saw how New Yorkers were suffering. If Bloomberg the human being had an ounce of integrity, he would have cancelled this race the day after Hurricane Sandy hit. However it appears Bloomberg the businessman won out.

- Herald on Sunday

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