IOC resurrects New York bid
Alvin Sallay in Singapore
'We are like the athlete who falls, gets up and races again' - Michael Bloomberg
The champagne corks were popping on American Independence Day yesterday. Outside chance New York claimed it had the edge over front-runners Paris and London after gaining momentum from the salvage plan put together in less than 72 hours to build a new Olympic Stadium in the borough of Queens.
'We have overcome a lot of hurdles. We are like the athlete who falls, gets up and races again. We are united in a way only America and New York can do when we have our backs to the wall. We are going to win,' said New York mayor Michael Bloomberg confidently.
Three days after the US$2 billion Olympic Stadium in Manhattan failed to get approval from state legislators last month, New York's 2012 bid was salvaged with the proposal to move across to the borough of Queens and build a stadium that would be used afterwards by the New York Mets baseball team.
This last-minute change in plans was formally endorsed by the International Olympic Committee executive board yesterday - an unprecedented move that has given fresh impetus to New York, whose bid committee now firmly believes that the momentum has switched from long-time front-runners Paris and London, to New York.
American billionaire Bloomberg said there was no city more experienced at running an Olympics than his beloved Big Apple. In an impassioned plea hours after arriving in Singapore, he said the city had the best credentials going into the final stretch.
'We have an Olympics virtually every day in New York. There were 202 countries at the last Olympics in Athens, There are children from 198 of these countries studying and living in New York. We do this every day,' Bloomberg said, highlighting the cosmopolitan nature of his city.
As the 100 IOC members entitled to vote in the first round tomorrow get ready - members affiliated to the five cities cannot vote unless their city is knocked out - the bid committees from Paris, London, Madrid, New York and Moscow held press conferences, and made their last-ditch appeals to IOC members.
While Tony Blair arrived on Sunday to spearhead London's bid and French president Jacques Chirac is due to arrive today to trumpet the Paris bid, New York's political trump card could well be Hillary Rodham Clinton - senator and possibly a future president of the United States.
Hillary Clinton is expected to arrive today in Singapore along with Muhammad Ali, who is also in New York's corner. But yesterday, it was Bloomberg who spearheaded the American charge.
Bloomberg's message was simple. He says New York has shown its resilience time and again to the world - after 9/11 and more recently after the Manhattan Stadium debacle - and that it was ready to host the Olympics. 'While 9/11 is not an issue in this race, it showed the New York people's character after America was attacked. It showed our resilience, about our ability to recover and change and about getting things done,' said Bloomberg.
Peter Ueberroth, the man credited with organising the first profitable Olympic Games back in 1984 in Los Angeles, promised yesterday that if New York won the 2012 race, it would economically benefit all the people of the world.
'The 2012 Games in New York can give an economic boost to all countries. We will have an Olympic Games which is good for the people of the world,' said Ueberroth who was chief executive officer at the 1984 games.
Dan Doctoroff, New York city's Deputy Mayor, revealed that 2,000 athletes from 64 countries had 'volunteered' their support for New York. 'They have volunteered their support because New York is special. They know when they compete in New York, it will be like competing at home,' he said.
Last night, the New York bid committee officials celebrated July 4th. Tomorrow, they are confident that they will be popping open more champagne corks.
'Today is Independence Day. July 6th is President Bush's birthday and I know what I'm going to give him,' said Roland Betts, the White House representative on the New York bid committee.