The Organisation of Marathons in Divided Cities: Brussels, Belfast, Beirut and Jerusalem

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The organisers of city marathons want to involve a large number of participants and to mobilise the support of local neighbourhoods. This is a particularly difficult challenge in a divided city, especially when the route crosses dividing lines in disputed territories - in which case, organising a marathon carries the risk of generating fresh conflict. But it is possible to avoid such an outcome. Brussels, where the dispute about the city boundaries has always been a peaceful one, has a city marathon that crosses these boundaries, and Belfast, a city with a long history of intercommunal violence, has successfully organised a marathon every year since 1982. Despite the segregation of Beirut's neighbourhoods, the participants in its marathon have run through the whole city since 2003. In Jerusalem, by contrast, a political row over the route of the first marathon in 2011 broke out in the municipal council long before the starter pistol was fired. To examine the reasons for these different outcomes, this article looks at the different types of territorial division in these cities, the types of relationship developed between the marathon organisers and the authorities, and the values the organisers have chosen to promote.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1553-1576
Number of pages24
JournalThe International Journal of the History of Sport
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • marathon
  • ethnic conflicts
  • divided cities
  • sport policy

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