Let the Games move in

1 of 5 cities will be chosen tomorrow to host 2012 Olympics

July 05, 2005|By Alan Abrahamson | Alan Abrahamson,LOS ANGELES TIMES

SINGAPORE - Nearly four years ago, in the days that followed the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the mayor of Rome, Walter Veltroni, made a dramatic suggestion: Give the 2012 Summer Olympic Games to New York City.

"If New York is a candidate, I think all other cities should all step back to allow New York to host the 2012 Games," he said. "If the Games go to New York, it means the athletes, the spectators, the whole world - we can all be together. This will show that the terrorists are defeated."

Tomorrow, the International Olympic Committee will choose the site of the 2012 Games. Paris, London, Moscow and Madrid, the other finalists along with New York, did not simply step aside.

The British and French media have spent months declaring that the contest is a two-horse race, London and Paris, Paris and London. But New York bid boosters insist New York ought not to be counted out, in remarks that increasingly for the past several weeks have drawn on the imagery and emotion of the 9/11 attacks.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Democrat from New York, speaking at a news conference last night, said: "We're standing here a little less than four years from the time we were attacked, and we're telling you New York City is the place to bring the 2012 Olympics because people in New York are resilient. They're extraordinary in their capacity to pull together and plan their future."

Speaking yesterday in Singapore, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said: "We are united in ways that America and New York can only do when our backs are to the wall.

"You saw us like an athlete who fell, got back up and said, `OK, just a little more of a challenge,' and ran even harder."

Paris has long been considered the front-runner in the 2012 contest, with a plan that relies on extensive use of temporary venues, in keeping with IOC president Jacques Rogge's call to contain the size and cost of the multibillion-dollar entity that is the Games.

A Paris 2012 Games would make emphatic an IOC commitment to downsizing and would set the direction of the Olympic movement for 2016 and beyond.

A London Games would spur development of the city's east side, around a proposed Olympic Park that evokes comparisons to the layout of the successful 2000 Summer Games in Sydney. A Madrid Games would underscore the ongoing influence of former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch of Spain. Moscow is considered a long shot.

IOC elections are notoriously volatile; Paris bid for the 2008 Games, which went to Beijing, and didn't receive even as many votes as Istanbul. The IOC votes by secret ballot, and no one, not even longtime insiders, stood prepared today, just hours before the vote, to declare how it will turn.

"The winner will have to be really, really good," Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe said in an interview.

And tell a compelling story.

Last month, after the bid's original plan for a stadium on the west side of Manhattan fell apart, New York quickly announced plans to move the Olympic stadium to a new Mets ballpark in Queens. Said Bloomberg: "See how quickly we recovered from a setback on the stadium. It didn't stop us at all. We didn't drop out. We didn't go cry about it. We just came up with another plan, which we really are excited about."

And in a news conference yesterday, Australian swimming star Ian Thorpe, a multiple Olympic gold medalist who was in New York on 9/11, said, "I saw the resolve and the way New Yorkers were able to work together in the darkest time." He added a moment later, "Let's go, New York!"

The New York plan would generate $153 million in royalty payments to the IOC from sponsorship and ticket revenues, far more than any of the other four cities.

"These Games can give an economic boost to all members of the Olympic family," said Peter Ueberroth, chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee and chief of the 1984 Los Angeles Games, which generated a $232.5 million profit and transformed Olympic economics.

About 100 IOC members will take part in the vote; the voting proceeds in rounds, the city receiving the fewest votes in each round dropping out until one of the cities has a majority. A member can vote for one city in a particular round, another in another and so on.

And a secret vote means that, as Ueberroth put it recently, "This is the one time every single individual IOC member can fearlessly express themselves."

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.


Population: 7.3 million

Previous Olympics: 1908 and 1948

Pros: Legacy offered by regeneration of run-down area of east London; cosmopolitan, multiethnic city; backdrop of famous sites; effective campaign run by bid leader and former two-time Olympic 1,500-meter champion Sebastian Coe; Britain hasn't hosted Games since 1948.

Cons: IOC caution over completion of Olympic Park project on time; creaking Underground subway and concerns about road traffic; opposition of nearly 100 businesses in main proposed Olympic zone.

Status: Challenging Paris


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