SBD/November 2, 2012/Events and Attractions

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  • NYC Marathon Preparations Continues While Calls Intensify To Cancel Race

    Ferries are expected to be available to transport runners to the start line

    N.Y. Road Runners Thursday continued to prepare for the ING N.Y. Marathon "with an abbreviated schedule of events” leading to the race “amid intensifying criticism,” according to Ken Belson on the N.Y. TIMES. While rail and ferry service were “struggling to resume” in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, N.Y. Mayor Michael Bloomberg “repeated Thursday that the race would go on.” He did “not expect the Police Department to be overly burdened because the race is on a Sunday, when street traffic is limited.” NYRR President & CEO Mary Wittenberg “defended Bloomberg’s decision and said the race would be used as a platform to lift spirits and raise money.” Her organization “plans to donate $26.20 for every runner who starts the race to relief efforts in the city, a total that could surpass $1 million.” NYRR Chair George Hirsch said that he “expected about 40,000 runners to begin the race, about 15 percent below what had initially been expected.” Wittenberg said that NYRR “had ‘essentially canceled’ nearly everything on its calendar before the marathon, including a youth event Thursday, the opening ceremony in Central Park on Friday and the Dash to the Finish Line 5K on Saturday that would have run through Midtown” (N.Y. TIMES, 11/2). A NYRR spokesperson said that “plenty of elements for the 26-mile, 385-yard run through the five boroughs remained ‘fluid’ … including whether city police will receive private security help and how runners will be transported to the starting line on the Staten Island side of the Verrazano Bridge.” On Long Island, John Jeansonne notes ferry service, employed “heavily for that purpose in recent years, was an iffy option, with extra buses to be called in, though Thursday night, ferries were said to be available” (NEWSDAY, 11/2).

    TRYING TO HELP THE CITY: Wittenberg said the decision to hold the race is one that "really came from a place of how can we proactively help rebuild and help this city." She said, "If we can raise money through relief efforts, if we can help give the city a positive lift and help turn the corner to rebuilding, then that's really the purpose of the marathon this year. I do think there’s nothing easy about this and we all are stepping to our task with heavy hearts. … This isn't about running anymore. This is about helping our city.” More Wittenberg: "For us, this has never been in any way about money. This has been all about what’s the right thing to do for the city and in many ways it’ll cost more going forward. Our job is to support the city” ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 11/1). CNBC's Brian Shactman said NYRR “probably should do something dramatic” with the money it normally raises for charities and “give absolutely every single operating profit penny to the recovery.” Shactman acknowledged that Wittenberg “is in a terrible spot." Schactman: "It's not her choice. Deep down I don't think they wanted to do it. I think Mayor Bloomberg wanted to do it” (“Squawk Box,” CNBC, 11/2). Meanwhile, former N.Y. Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Bloomberg “made the right decision in going forward with the marathon." Giuliani: “You have got to go forward with events like this … because the fact is that this city has to show resiliency” (“Cavuto,” Fox Business, 11/1).

    POLITICIANS SPEAK OUT: New York state Sen. Liz Krueger called the decision to stage the marathon a “glaring misstep.” If the city takes “one police officer, one ambulance or one fire department staffer to put them on the marathon rather than doing the emergency response work they are doing, it is not just an outrage, it is an abuse of their responsibilities" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 11/1). New York state Assembly member Nicole Malliotakis said, "To take one resource, one police officer to supervise a stupid marathon is a slap in the face to the borough." U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm (D-N.Y.) said, "It is complete and utter lunacy. We are still taking people out of the water and we're supposed to spruce up the parks for a race?" (STATEN ISLAND ADVANCE, 11/2). Grimm added Bloomberg has "one of the most difficult jobs in the world, and I do respect that." But he added, "There are people right now that have absolutely no heat. They are sitting still in the dark in their apartments and they have no food. ... To say that we have enough resources just isn't accurate. It's not true.” Staten Island Borough President Scott Stringer said, “I give Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Cuomo great credit for their relief efforts. Mayors have to think big and try to hold the great events because they want to show that New York is resilient. But I believe in this case we have to be very cautious. ... The prudent course of action is postpone the marathon” (“Today,” NBC, 11/2).

    PULLING RESOURCES IN THE WRONG DIRECTION
    : In N.Y., Filip Bondy writes under the header, “Running The NYC Marathon On Sunday Through The Five Boroughs Is Not What This City Needs.” The Marathon is “being run, mainly, because it would be a pain in the neck to reschedule, and because it would cost organizers and local businesses a ton of money.” But it is “definitely not because it is the right thing to do.” Bellevue Hospital and NYU Langone have been “forced to shut down and evacuate patients after the hurricane.” The “last thing this city needs at the moment is a rash of self-imposed injuries and cardiac complications” (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 11/2). ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan said, "This is no time to worry about a race. ... You are talking about straining public resources at a time when people need help.” ESPN's J.A. Adande said, "I believe in the power of sports to heal and unify, but this is a matter of logistics” (“Around The Horn,” ESPN, 11/1). ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said, "Here you are talking about a situation where people are going to be running through the streets of New York City, streets that are flooded, streets that are blocked off, all of this stuff going on. Plus, they’re going to need additional resources from the city in order to pull this off. The last thing New York City needs right now is a marathon" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 11/1). COMPETITOR.com’s Mario Fraioli, whose company owns rival race organizer Competitor Group, wrote the marathon “does not need to happen this Sunday,” as there are “more pressing issues that rightfully deserve the city’s attention, energy and limited resources.” There are “a limited number of public resources such as policeman, firemen and paramedics available to aid the recovery effort, and every single one of them absolutely needs to go toward helping the folks who pay tax dollars to take advantage of them” (COMPETITOR.com, 11/1).

    A BAD LOOK: SportsNet N.Y.’s Marc Malusis said, "There’s no way that the marathon should be run on Sunday. It makes absolutely no sense. … It’s another disaster.” SportsNet N.Y.’s Sal Licata: “I like the idea of trying to return to normalcy and get back to doing things that is an escape from this.” However, the “problem is it just doesn’t make any sense" ("The Wheelhouse," SportsNet N.Y., 11/1). SportsNet N.Y.’s Eamon McAnaney said staging the marathon is a “joke” and it is “just not a festive feel right now.” McAnaney: “This is a flat-out cash grab. They don’t want to give the money back to sponsors. They don’t want to give the money back to TV.” N.Y. Daily News’ Bob Raissman asked, “What’s the crime in waiting?” ("Daily News Live," SportsNet N.Y., 11/1). A N.Y. POST editorial states the marathon will go on while “two massive generators chug away in Central Park and a third sits idle waiting to power a media center" during Sunday’s race. Those generators “could power 400 homes on Staten Island or the Rockaways or any storm-wracked neighborhood.” The editorial: “Shouldn’t they come first? Shouldn’t the race just be canceled? Damned straight.” But Bloomberg’s “trademark Manhattan myopia is back” (N.Y. POST, 11/2). In N.Y., Phil Mushnick asks, “How would you like to have been stuck out of town all week, away from your family, only to lose your airline seat or bus or train ticket to someone headed here to run on Sunday?” (N.Y. POST, 11/2).

    TWITTER REAX: Sports PR consultant Ari Fleischer wrote on his Twitter feed, "Running the NYC marathon this weekend is terribly, terribly foolish and out of touch. Staten Island needs help." NFL Network's Jason Smith wrote, "My family on Staten Island is OK but borough is devastated. Make the right call and send supplies to people in need instead of the Marathon." The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre wrote, "Bloomberg has to cancel the stupid marathon today. ... This is a terrible decision." The N.Y. Post's Mike Vaccaro wrote, "If Bloomberg lets Marathon go on, that'll be his answer to Rozelle having NFL games go on Nov. 24, 1963." ESPNW.com's Jane McManus wrote, "My concern about marathon: trucks with food, gas and supplies would be blocked from reaching parts of NYC to accommodate route." Newsday's Jim Baumbach wrote, "Do a Twitter search for 'NYC Marathon' and check out the outrage and criticism, with dozens of tweets per minute. Pressure's on mayor/NYRRC."

    RUNNING THE RACE? Are you or someone you know in the sports business industry running in Sunday’s ING N.Y. Marathon? If so, contact Theresa Manahan at tmanahan@sportsbusinessdaily.com and let her know. Then on Monday, send her your time, a photo and a quick note about the experience to share with our readers.

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  • N.Y. Marathon Could Face Damage To Brand By Holding Race Amid Controversy

    Could the brand of the ING N.Y. Marathon be damaged by its decision to race Sunday, just days after Hurricane Sandy devastated the tri-state region? The marathon, now in its 43rd year, has grown to become what is widely considered the premier road race in America. This year, it starts a new five-year deal with ESPN that has it appearing on live national TV (ESPN2) for the first time since '93. But critics this week have been fast to pounce on N.Y. Road Runners, the race’s organizers, for going through with the competition given the storm. Those making comments range from newspaper columnists and posters in social-media forums to politicians and CBS’ David Letterman, who joked during his show about the decision to race. Josh Cox, a professional runner who has competed in four Olympic marathon trials, wrote in a Twitter correspondence with SportsBusiness Journal, “I understand the financial implications for both the NYRR & NYC, but to ask an already taxed NYPD to work 26.2 miles isn’t the right allocation of resources.” He added, “I would love it if the NYRR would give an incentive for anyone who volunteered rather than ran. ... Imagine the impact if 10,000 runners took the opportunity?” N.Y. Mayor Michael Bloomberg Thursday insisted in his daily briefing that the police and fire departments would not be stressed come this weekend. Hayes Roth, CMO for branding company Landor, said that with Bloomberg giving his blessing for the race to proceed, NYRR could enhance the marathon’s brand if the race can be viewed as a symbol of revitalizing N.Y. “I would argue it is an opportunity to celebrate resilience and the New York spirit,” said Roth, whose firm is handling branding for the new World Trade Center. “It is not without controversy, [but] just weighing all the pluses and minus, I think it is a good thing to do.” Roth conceded that there are risks, from falling branches hurting runners in Central Park to the general discontent some feel about the city not having proper time to recover, like it did with the '01 marathon, staged two months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

    RACE CAN UNITE THE CITY: Runners’ World Editor-in-Chief David Willey said a marathon is unique in that it can unite a city unlike any other sporting event. But even Willey recognized the need for somberness. He noted, for example, that the magazine’s annual midtown party scheduled for Friday night -- happening just blocks from where a crane hangs damaged 90 stories above the city -- has been downscaled into a meeting place for runners to congregate. For the NYRR, which has grown exponentially under President & CEO Mary Wittenberg, the race is a major money maker, pulling in $30-40M annually, a sum that funds most of the nonprofit group’s budget. Themes of health and fitness, charity, and celebration adorn the image of the marathon, so the storm controversy is a significant challenge to overcome. The group is donating $1 million to storm recovery efforts. Title sponsor ING is donating $500,000. The marathon is not, however, letting any runners roll over their entry fee to next year should they choose to defer their participation -- whether because they cannot make it to N.Y. or because they feel racing is the wrong thing to do. Instead, any such runners will have to pay a new fee, an amount that commonly is in the hundreds of dollars. “That is wrong,” said Scott Lange, a veteran marketer who formerly was CMO for NYRR and now is with The Active Network. While he agreed with the decision to race, saying in effect that NYRR had no choice once the mayor gave his approval, Lange said the entry fee choice sends a poor message that the NYRR would financially ding runners who could not, or who choose not, to run. Willey, though, noted how expensive it is for the NYRR to stage the race, with the city recently having upped its tab for police. "The race,” he said, “has been under pressure with rising costs.”

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