Thursday, May 1, 2003

Sculpture gave marathon a name

By John Johnston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

At Sunday's Flying Pig Marathon, the question might be more common than foot blisters: How did the race get its name? Here's the rundown:

Back in 1988, Bicentennial Commons at Sawyer Point was being built to celebrate the city's 200th birthday.

For the entrance sculpture, a team of renowned artists and architects chose a design by internationally known artist Andrew Leicester.

When: Sunday, beginning at Paul Brown Stadium. Wheelchair event, 6:25 a.m.; marathon, 4-person relay and 2-person relay, 6:30 a.m.; 10K, 6:50 a.m.; victory party at Sawyer Point, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Registration and packet pickup: Health & Fitness Expo, noon-7 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday at the Albert B. Sabin Cincinnati Convention Center.
More details:
The Minneapolis artist knew pigs played a huge role in Cincinnati's early development. The city, in fact, was one of the world's leading pork-packing centers in the 1840s, which gave rise to the nickname Porkopolis. So, Leicester included in his sculpture four 3-foot-high bronze pigs, with wings, which appeared to be shooting out of 30-foot-tall riverboat smokestacks. He has said they represent "the angelic spirits of all the pigs that were slaughtered and that were building blocks of Cincinnati's prosperity."

But some residents and city officials felt the swine were insulting. The resulting brouhaha was picked up by the national news media. In the end, though, the pigs prevailed, and the sculpture was built.

Before the first Cincinnati marathon in 1999, race founder Bob Coughlin, CEO of Paycor Inc., was brainstorming names with marketing folks. "We were trying to figure out how to make Cincinnati a destination, and have it be a fun marathon," he says. Somebody mentioned "flying pig," and everybody dismissed it with a laugh. "Write that down," said Coughlin. "You never know."

In the end, the name stuck.

For this year's marathon, a "delighted" Leicester will serve as honorary ambassador. He will not wear the flying pig suit he donned for the 1988 park dedication. "I can't find it, and I'm really upset about that," he says with a chuckle. "I do have a flying pig bow tie," which he says he'll wear at a V.I.P dinner this week.


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Sculpture gave marathon a name

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