MOSCOW, November 3 (RIA Novosti) - The New York City Marathon has been canceled in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a statement.
City Hall appeared to have bowed to public pressure to call off Sunday's road race just hours after defending a decision to allow it to go ahead.
"While holding the race would not require diverting resources from the recovery effort, it is clear that it has become the source of controversy and division," the statement said.
"We would not want a cloud to hang over the race or its participants, and so we have decided to cancel it. We cannot allow a controversy over an athletic event – even one as meaningful as this – 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."
The event is a highlight of the marathon calendar along with London, Berlin and Chicago and attracts in excess of 40,000 participants, doubling up as a top-class road race and a charity fundraiser for amateurs.
The course was to start on the huge Varrazano-Narrows Bridge connecting Brooklyn with Staten Island, among the hardest-hit districts.
Sandy barreled up the Eastern Coast during the week, killing at least 109 people and causing $50 billion worth of damage, according to early estimates.
Bloomberg had earlier said the marathon would showcase his city's steely defiance as the road to recovery begins, not least by "giving people something to cheer about."