New York City is canceling its annual marathon, scheduled for Sunday, after a backlash against plans to hold the race in the wake of hurricane Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said on Friday.
Bloomberg had earlier sought to allow the race to go ahead, but a chorus of opposition grew in the days after Sandy hit the area, with local politicians, media and even runners calling for the event to be canceled or postponed.
And in a statement late Friday afternoon, he acknowledged that the race had “become a source of controversy and division,” and said it would not proceed.
“The marathon has been an integral part of New York City’s life for 40 years and is an event tens of thousands of New Yorkers participate in and millions more watch,” he said.
“The marathon has always brought our city together and inspired us with stories of courage and determination. We would not want a cloud to hang over the race or its participants, and so we have decided to cancel it.”
It was not immediately clear if the organisers of the race, which draws around 45,000 runners, would seek to reschedule it. Some had called for a new spring next year date.
Earlier on Friday, Bloomberg had sounded a confident tone about the race, insisting it would not deflect attention away from those still struggling in the aftermath of Sandy, which smashed into the city on Monday.
And he stuck to that line in his statement announcing the cancelation, saying holding the race “would not require diverting resources.”
But, he added, “we cannot allow a controversy over an athletic event... to distract attention away from all the critically important work that is being done to recover from the storm and get our city back on track.”
In Manhattan, Electric power returned to 65,000 customers on Friday in a big boost for New Yorkers living in the dark since superstorm Sandy damaged networks, ConEdison power company said.
The utility company said the restored power was in the hard-hit Lower East Side and East Village areas of Manhattan.
This accounted for more than a quarter of homes in Manhattan still left without power in the wake of Sandy. Officials say that all of Manhattan should get back electricity by the end of Saturday.
However, widespread outages will continue in other parts of the city, as well as in neighbouring New Jersey, officials said.