Stadium Issue? What Issue?

An open letter to the international Olympic committee

Dear International Olympic Committee inspectors:

I hope you don't mind, but I somehow picture your team of International Olympic Committee inspectors as a bumbling crew of Inspector Clouseau types. That's unfair, of course. You've no doubt already dissected New York City's 562-page bid book to host the 2012 Olympics. But even so, may I make one suggestion?

When you arrive in town on February 21 to evaluate our bid, look very carefully at how much public support there is for building the envisioned center stage for the 2012 Olympics, a new stadium on the West Side of Manhattan.

Part of your job will be to score us on our "public support" for the city's Olympic bid. The bid document says, right there on page 39, that there is "broad and passionate support."

The bid cites polls that show most New Yorkers want to bring the 2012 Olympics here. But if you check elsewhere, you'll find that the same polls show we're divided on the centerpiece of the bid, the new $1.4 billion stadium. And as our mayor said, "If we were not to get the stadium going very soon, we will have to drop out of our bid for the Olympics."

This stress on having a new stadium in Manhattan puts us in a bind, doesn't it? We need to score high on "public support," but we also are said to need the stadium. And the public does not support the stadium.

A lot of the supposed supporters mentioned in the bid are in the same bind over the stadium.

Take, for example, the bid's section on media organizations that back the Olympic bid. They are listed right there on page 53, where it says that The New York Times, the Daily News, the Post, Newsday, and several TV stations are all represented on the board of NYC2012, the group that presented the city's bid.

It may certainly look as if the city's major news organizations are in your pocket, but look again: When it comes to the stadium, the newspapers are divided.

"Stop the Stadium in Its Tracks," the Times editorializes. On the other side, the Daily News says the only way to get the Olympics is to build the stadium in the very place where many people don't want it: "It's the West Side or nowhere."

The same story goes for politicians listed as supporters. One of them is Congressman Charles Rangel, whose picture you'll see on page 45 of the bid.

"I haven't decided on the stadium," he said when I asked him about it.

But isn't the stadium part of the bid? I asked. Rangel said that when he began supporting the effort to bring the Olympics to New York, "it had nothing to do with the stadium. I am excited about the Olympics. It's only been since that time that some have said . . . that we have to make a decision on the stadium. I'm not convinced of that."

You've probably noticed that the Moscow bid says that "all the parties represented in the State Duma and the Moscow City Duma wholeheartedly support Moscow's bid to host the Games." Even the Communist Party has pitched in.

Our New York bid says that "the overwhelmingly Democratic City Council" approved the city's candidacy, and that the state legislature put up money for the games. But our mayor has avoided allowing the City Council to vote on the stadium. And our governor has a plan to fund the stadium with taxpayer money even if the legislature votes against funding it.

Moscow's bid boasts that neither the Russian Federation "nor Moscow legislation provides for any referendum regarding the hosting of the 2012 Olympic Games." But Moscow mayor Yuri M. Luzhkov has nothing on us; our mayors have blocked any referendum on the stadium for years.

You might conclude this means there is not much support for the Olympic plan if the public, the City Council, and the state legislature can't be counted on to vote in favor of the new stadium.

But Jay Kriegel, the executive director of NYC2012, takes an open-minded view toward those who dissent against the stadium. "There are many people who support the Olympic bid enthusiastically but who may oppose the stadium," he said. "I understand that. This is a wonderfully diverse society."

This kind of tolerance is what makes New York the city it is. Perhaps you will show the same kind of tolerance for us when you score our city's bid. Then we can have it both ways—that we New Yorkers support the Olympic bid even though we don't support carrying the plan out.

Enjoy your visit!

Best,

Paul Moses

 
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