TODAY   |  November 01, 2012

CEO: NYC marathon will ‘bring the city together’

Mary Wittenberg, CEO and president of New York Road Runners, the group that organizes the New York City marathon, tells TODAY’s Matt Lauer why they are still going ahead with the race despite the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy, saying it will “bring the city together and  help the world unite to really support this relief effort.”

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> even as new york city struggles to recover from sandy, it's going ahead with one of the biggest events every year. mayor michael bloomberg says the new york city marathon will take place this sunday as scheduled. but not everyone is onboard with that decision. mary wittenberg is the ceo and president of the group that organizes the marathon. good morning. nice to see you.

>> good morning, matt.

>> were you in agreement with this decision?

>> once the mayor said let's go forward. we're here to support the city, ready to do whatever we can.

>> if he said to you, mary, do you think it's a good idea? would you have had said yes or no?

>> i would say, what come sunday would be the best for new yorkers. and when he said the best thing is to go, the answer is to do everything we can to support the city and help it get back on its feet. and we're going to take advantage of the opportunity to really help elevate the relief efforts and help people come together in the city.

>> he's the one that made the call. and i don't mean to put you on the hot seat. i'm a fan of the marathon. i like it. but i have not seen one person here in our informal survey that thinks this is the right idea. you have 600,000 people without power in the city. the subways are only operating on a limited basis, there are streets that are closed, no power downtown, there's gridlock. the governor declared a transportation emergency, and we saw that picture a second ago of the traffic, people waiting to get into new york city . add to that 47,000 runners, 8,000 volunteers, some 2 million spectators, why is it a good idea?

>> well, i think first, matt, our hearts go out to everybody impacted by the storm. it's been really tough here. and the marathon is a day that's all about the triumph of the human spirit and the idea is that come sunday to really help bring new yorkers back together.

>> could we have delayed it, though? until the city's a little bit more on its feet after struggling through this week?

>> we'd be prepared to go forward however the city thinks best or not go forward. but we respond and get prepared for what we're asked to do. and, again, the idea is come sunday to bring the city together and help the world unite to really support this relief effort.

>> we've got airports running at far less than capacity. can you get the runners in? do you think the runners coming from across the country and by the way, around the world, i think some 20,000 of them come from other countries, can they get here? can they get around the city once they get here? will they have places to stay?

>> and what we're hearing is that the flights have been rebooked, people are coming, people want to be here and support. we hear a lot of support of people saying, i want to help new york, i want to help get back on its feet. i want to be there, i want to support local businesses that have been out of business for a while. so far we're hearing people are coming and, you know, on sunday, i think what's really important too, is we have modified all plans. first of all, we canceled most every event except for sunday morning, opening ceremonies friday night canceled, a saturday morning race for 8,000 to 10,000 canceled. so the focus of sunday morning also in terms of transportation, we've gone entirely to a transportation system . all buses, no public transportation . and so that's the idea is to be here. our job is to respond to what the city needs and asked us to do. and to do so without draining any of the resources that are really rightly focused on the recovery.

>> do you expect some of the money raised for charity to go to the relief efforts?

>> yes, we're going to use this platform to say here's how you can help. donate to red cross , help americans get back on their feet. and we're on national television and global television , that'll be the chance to help new york and the entire area move forward and rebound.

>> hopefully monday morning people will have a different opinion of this decision, at least some of them. good luck with the race on sunday.

>> thanks so much.