(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
More than ten thousand runners will descend on the nation’s capital in a week and a half on March 25 for the first Jerusalem International Marathon, including a thousand runners from abroad.
Large delegations from the United States, Italy, Germany, and France will join approximately 3,000 soldiers for races of various lengths, including the full marathon (42 km) the half marathon (21 km) a 10k race, a 4.2-km fun race to benefit the Israel Cancer Society or a 400- meter dash for the Children of SHALVA, an organization that supports children with special needs.
“My goal was to open up Jerusalem and put Jerusalem on the map of leading cities that host marathons,” said Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat on Monday. “It is a pleasure to host so many people in the marathon.”
In addition to race day, the events during marathon week include the Inaugural Sports and Health Expo at the International Convention Center from March 22-24, and the traditional pasta dinner for runners of the half and full marathons the night before the race.
“The marathon has two main characteristics, one of which is to bring runners to the city, and we hope in the coming years we’ll have even more runners taking part,” said Pini Shani, a representative of the Tourism Ministry. “The second is to show that Jerusalem is a pluralistic city and one of the world’s leading cities that has religious and historical sites but that is a city with modern life that you can run in while visiting those sites.”
Police announced that the race routes will be closed to traffic from 6 a.m. until 2 p.m. or earlier, as the runners finish parts of the race. The races start between 7 and 9 a.m. Egged buses will be changing their routes to avoid the race, and the police asked the public to avoid Derech Hebron, all of the city center and Mount Scopus. Police encouraged the public to use Begin Highway and Herzl Boulevard instead. Police also requested that people do their shopping on Thursday night to avoid extra vehicles on the road. Hundreds of young students will get the morning off from their studies to man water stations along the route.
Jerusalem hotels are operating at full capacity, the Tourism Ministry said, with 2,800 people reserving hotel rooms in connection with the marathon. The mayor illustrated the marathon’s path from a platform hoisted 50 meters into the air, from which he could point out all of the major points along the 42-km route. He also announced that the Second Annual Jerusalem Marathon will take place on March 16, 2012. Adidas, the main sponsor of the event with Toto Winner, said they planned on continuing their sponsorship in the coming years.
City councillors from the opposition had initially pressured Adidas to withdraw their funding unless the route was changed to not include parts of east Jerusalem. They sent a letter to the international Adidas headquarters in Germany, who in return sent a letter to mayor Barkat asking him to look into the matter. The route was not changed and Adidas did not withdraw their funding.
“There are things that a developed nation does not do, and they do not support occupation and sponsoring this marathon is sponsoring the occupation,” said city councilor Meir Margalit (Meretz). He said he had sent additional letters to Adidas in Germany as well as the German Foreign Ministry this week.
“If we fail, then we’ve lost, but we have to fight until the last moment,” he said. “The marathon can be an event that can bring harmony between nations, but not in our present situation, not when half of the city is occupied by Israeli control,” he said.
Margalit added that Meretz was not opposed to the marathon itself, but just the part that went through east Jerusalem.
“Meretz understood they’re making fools of themselves,” said Elisha
Peleg (Likud), a city councilor who holds the sport portfolio. “There’s
no political subject here. It’s for sport, culture, and tourism; there’s
nothing about politics.”
Adidas Israel Marketing Manger Mike Shitrit said that the company
“immediately said yes” when they were approached by the municipality
over a year ago to sponsor the marathon.
“Adidas sees the Jerusalem Marathon as a strategic marathon that can
bring together the hearts of the different sectors of Israel, including
the Arabic minority and the Israeli Jews, all of the factions, including
people from outside of Israel,” Shitrit told The Jerusalem Post
Shitrit added that he anticipated a long and fruitful partnership between Adidas and Jerusalem for the marathon.
“We do it out of a love for the sport and a love for the city,” he said.