NYC Marathon Fiasco Proves PR is About Common Sense

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy it had not even crossed my mind that they would run the NYC Marathon.  As the week progressed, Mayor Bloomberg proclaimed the need to hold the event to rekindle the spirit of the city I was flabbergasted.  It was too soon. People were still suffering from the devastation wrought by the storm. Providing resources to run this race while communities hard hit by Sandy and still in need of basic necessities like food, water and shelter was not the common sense thing to do.

Thankfully, due to tremendous media backlash the Mayor, NY Road Runners and event sponsor ING, cancelled plans to stage the race, citing that it had become a distraction. It should have never become an issue.

The public relations backlash against holding the NYC Marathon was a case of the Mayor and event organizers misreading public perception.  This was not 9-11.  Twelve years ago this area needed something to take its mind off the horrors of the terrorist attack and the collapse of the World Trade Center.  However, when the Mets and Braves played the first baseball game after the attacks of 9-11 it was during the same week but a full 10 days later. There was a need then to return to normalcy. In the case of the NYC Marathon, stability needed to happen first.

What should have happened was an immediate decision by the NY Road Runners, ING and the Mayor to reschedule the event for at least two weeks out.  That would have given the city a chance to get power up in all five boroughs and ensure that the people who needed much-needed supplies and resources like the countless individuals and families on Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens and those of lower Manhattan received them.

The focus should not have been on unifying the spirit of the city but on making sure the needs of its residents were met first before staging the event. Once normalcy was restored in these communities, then an event of the magnitude of the NYC Marathon could be considered for staging.

The very thought of having 40,000 runners at the staging ground of the Verrazano Bridge in Staten Island while nearby, hundreds of people were digging through the debris that was once their home should have been enough to alter the decision to move forward with the race.

What would have been lost by ING, the city and the NY Road Runners by waiting a couple of weeks? Was it all about the foreign runners that were coming in?  ING could have stepped up and paid for the costs of the re-ticketing of their airfares.

On Saturday I was at the Centex sales office of my new home at the Equestra community in Farmingdale, New Jersey. The topic of the NYC Marathon came up and I discussed the public relations fallout from the decisions made earlier in the week with a couple of the sales executives.  They were all in agreement that it did not make sense to stage the event right now.

One had a thought that the NYC Marathon should open things up for people to walk the course if they rescheduled the race. This could serve as a fundraiser for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.

I thought as well that the course could be reconfigured to ensure that the race go through some of these communities once they were restored back to a semblance of normalcy.

None of these thoughts and ideas was meant to be put in place immediately but they were focused on putting the event in perspective and respecting the travails of what people were going through.

Those that trained all year for the chance to race in the NYC Marathon will ultimately have their day. What’s needed first is for those without homes, water and power to receive help.

Unfortunately, Mayor Bloomberg and the NYC Marathon organizers initially failed to use common sense in taking this into perspective.

As that great philosopher Mr. Spock once said, “The good of the many, outweigh the good of the few.”

Tom Cosentino

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