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Should NYC Postpone the Marathon? (UPDATED)

Today a battle wages on Twitter over what most would probably not consider a pressing issue: whether New York should proceed as planned with the ING New York City Marathon, currently scheduled for Sunday morning. The debate has turned bitter and divisive as pro and con camps make their cases.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others who think the race should happen argue that a postponement or cancellation would be devastating to the NYC-based businesses that bring in hundreds of millions of dollars each year thanks to the Marathon (this year’s race will include approximately 50,000 runners). Bloomberg pointed to the city’s quick rebound after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 as an example of crisis recovery, saying, “The city is a city where we have to go on.”

Anti-marathoners essentially argue that the race, which is a massive undertaking, will divert crucial resources from the city’s Hurricane Sandy clean-up efforts–and that travel disruptions will depress participation rates anyway. Quite a few suggested that runners should boycott the race and volunteer to help Sandy survivors instead–and they’ve even set up a Facebook page.

The latest spat concerns the generators required for the race–and the power they could potentially provide to homes devastated by wind and flooding. Some have predictably turned the issue into a partisan bludgeon to use against Bloomberg, who broke character yesterday to formally endorse President Obama for re-election. Drudge Report deemed the headline “Bloomberg Diverts Critical Supplies from Sandy Aid to NYC Marathon” worthy of a siren, while the New York Post ran with “Abuse of Power”. Coincidence?

Another complication: The race starts in Staten Island, one of the areas hit hardest by the storm (at least 19 dead, many homes destroyed, thousands without power). Postponement advocates argue that starting the race there belittles SI residents, many of whom already feel ignored by city and federal authorities. Yet Bloomberg insisted that the race will go on, and today he doubled down on that promise.

The debate shows no signs of letting up on social media. Here are a couple of interesting alternate takes on the issue. First: no one has argued for canceling the upcoming Giants game.

Maybe the debaters simply framed the issue incorrectly.

What do we think? Should Bloomberg reconsider?

UPDATE: Bloomberg now confirms that the marathon has been cancelled with no apparent plans to reschedule. But this was certainly an interesting case in public advocacy fueled by social media, wasn’t it?

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