NEW YORK – As the Big Apple’s sales pitch to host the 2012 Summer Games shifts into high gear this week with an International Olympic Committee evaluation team in town, the as-yet-unapproved Olympic stadium looms as the knock in the engine.
Up against a glamour-city field that includes Paris and London, New York bid officials need a green light from the evaluators to stay in the race. The evaluation team, composed of six IOC members and seven staffers and experts, will issue a report on the bid’s technical aspects, such as transportation plans and venues, at least a month before the IOC chooses the 2012 host in July.
Any concerns over something as central to the bid as the Olympic stadium could be very damaging.
“We’ve said to everybody that you’ve got to have an Olympic stadium to have an Olympics,” said Dan Doctoroff, New York’s deputy mayor and leader of the bid team. “We believe that in order to be successful, given the competition in this race, by the time the IOC votes they have to be convinced that we will be able to deliver on our promise that we will have the Olympic stadium.”
Bid officials, who want to build a stadium on the city’s West Side that also would serve as home to the New York Jets, have the backing of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But they face opposition from community groups, some local politicians and Madison Square Garden executives who fear they would lose events to the stadium.
The Garden recently announced it was offering $600 million for the property upon which the stadium would be built. The Metropolitan Transit Authority, the property’s current owner, will consider all proposals at a March 31 meeting.
The IOC will be eager to pick a bidder that can assure a smooth path for Games preparations. Squabbles and deadlocks led to worrisome delays for the 2004 Games in Athens. In Torino, Italy, host of next year’s Winter Olympics, the IOC had to step in last fall to clear friction that was affecting preparations.
After an initial analysis of New York’s bid was released last year, officials were able to tweak it. They have responded to IOC concerns about a plan to have athletes ride ferries and trains to their competitions by proposing to transport all athletes by bus.
When the evaluation team makes its findings public, though, New York won’t get much in the way of a rebuttal. So this week they must sell the stadium as a sure thing because they don’t have a Plan B.
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