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Bloomberg's Bright Idea: The NYC Marathon vs. the Politics of Legacy

11/05/2012 11:32 am ET | Updated Jan 05, 2013

It's majestic, epic and canceled for November 2012. For the first time in 42 years, thousands of people from over 100 different countries won't be running through NYC's concrete jungle. Their hearts won't be pounding, as they pound the pavement, racing towards a 26-mile finish line.

Since 1970, the NYC Marathon has showcased dreams in all sizes, shapes, colors and languages. Every year it's an international and intra-borough celebration of the triumphant human spirit. After 9/11, former Mayor Giuliani stopped traffic and green lit the marathon to show the world that terrorists did not defeat NYC.

Flashforward to the Flashflooding of Sandy

Despite long lines for necessities including food, water and gas spanning 30 city blocks, billionaire-turned-Mayor Bloomberg now with 10 years of experience came to the same conclusion: let's show the world that Sandy did not defeat NYC. The NYC Marathon was projected to generate $340 million worth of economic activity at a time when the city desperately needs. Also NYRR organizers pledged $1 million dollars towards the recovery effort.

As hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers suffered; being evacuated from hospitals, losing their cars and homes, shivering in their dark apartments, riding trains with limited service and children rummaging through dumpsters for food, on Friday, Bloomberg called on former Mayor Giuliani for advice not on emergency management but on the marathon. Despite growing tension within his cabinet and the NY Post's front-page condemnation of generators for the marathon as an "Abuse of Power," Bloomberg listened to Giuliani. Should 1,000 cops be dedicated to a race and hotel beds reserved for runners when people are trying to survive?

"These massive generators are providing electricity to the marathon's tent in Central Park... while NYers suffer!"

Social Media Forces A Final Answer for The Finish Line

As early as 9 a.m. on Friday, people using social media started organizing their outrage into petitions.

According to techprisident.org

Two hours ago, a petition on Change.org calling for the race to be postponed until next spring had about 5,000 signatures. That has already quadrupled to 20,000 as of this writing. An hour ago, a Facebook page, started by a woman from Staten Island, calling for the marathon's cancellation has 33,000 likes; that's now up to more than 40,000.

"I cannot start a 26.2 mile run in Staten Island -- people are missing, stranded, in need of resources. Brooklyn and Queens have equal devastation. Parts of Manhattan are without electricity, water, major hospitals are closed. The Bronx too has its own challenges. Today I will volunteer at a city evacuation shelter."

Bloomberg Bows to Pressure

According to the New York Times, Bloomberg's decisions to post-pone the marathon was more political than ideological. Bloomberg's cabinet reminded him about his ineffective handling of a 2010 blizzard aka snowmaggedon, which marred his overall record of efficiency. Bloomberg tallied the pros and cons switched from offense to defending his honor and his depiction in the annals of history. By 5 p.m., a press conference was held to cancel the marathon and avoid another political black eye.

Unlike other controversies he's been able to spin into praise, perhaps Bloomberg realized that he would have to rename the NYC Marathon the NYC Triathlon. On your marks, get set, go: swim through flooded streets, jump over burnt homes, push cars out the way and smile at the finish line.