NYC still reaped benefit for making effort for 2012 Olympics
What might have been, 12 days from now, was a flotilla of tall ships and fireboats escorting a ferry fleet of the world's athletes from the Olympic village at Hunters Point around the southern tip of Manhattan for the Opening Ceremonies in a new West Side Stadium. To be followed by competition spread from the five boroughs to New Jersey and Nassau Coliseum.
Instead, the IOC chose London. Because the vote was secret, it never will be clear whether a smoldering dispute over the U.S. share of Olympic television and sponsorship revenues -- a disagreement finally settled with the IOC last month -- torpedoed New York's chances.
Gotham's loss that day now resembles nothing of the sort for the city or the leaders who spent eight years chasing the Olympic designation.
"In reality, what has happened in the city by bidding for the Olympics has been an unalloyed positive," said Dan Doctoroff, who founded the NYC2012 committee and was appointed deputy mayor of economic development midway through the bid process.
Last November, an exhaustive study by New York University's transportation policy center concluded that "contrary to popular belief, the New York City Olympic Plan has largely been implemented, even though the 2012 Games will be held in London."
The study cited NYC2012's multiple development initiatives, including rezoning of the West Side Hudson Yards, extension of the No. 7 subway line, transformation of the High Line and Brooklyn Waterfront and implementation of ferry service. Even the last-minute rejection of NYC2012's proposed West Side Stadium, the NYU report said, pushed the city toward quick agreements to construct new stadiums by both the Yankees and Mets.
"Right down that list, pretty damn good," said Jay Kriegel, who had served as NYC2012's executive director. "The principle we stated was to have a bid to benefit the city, win or lose. The network of people we worked with still look fondly on what they did."
NYC2012 enlisted scores of consultants, Olympians and planners, and many still see each other "and still talk about how proud we are of the work we did," said Wendy Hilliard, who was NYC2012's sports director. "No regrets. We had an amazing team of people, and all those relationships go on."
Doctoroff, an investment banker at the time, conceived the idea of a New York Olympics after attending a World Cup soccer game between Italy and Bulgaria at Giants Stadium in 1994. He was convinced that Big Town mirrored the Olympics in bringing the world together, in competitiveness and the pursuit of dreams.
He hired Kriegel, once mayor John Lindsay's chief of staff and a player in previous CBS bids to televise two Winter Olympics, for his connections. Hilliard, a former member of the national rhythmic gymnastics team and president of the Women's Sports Foundation, was brought on board for her strong Olympic ties.
NYC2012 -- there never was any intention of bidding again for 2016 -- raised $55 million in corporate backing and received in-kind services worth roughly the same amount from law, accounting, consulting and architectural firms.
Celebrities and politicians joined the elaborate NYC2012 pitch to the IOC. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, then-New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and Muhammad Ali were among the boldface names who traveled to Singapore as NYC2012 lobbyists.
In a telephone interview last week, Doctoroff recalled how he found himself back in Singapore in early 2008, shortly after leaving the deputy mayor's post to become president of Bloomberg, L.P., a global provider of financial data. "We were driving up to the Ritz Carlton -- which is where we were when we found out we lost [the IOC vote] -- and I wondered how I was going to feel," Doctoroff said.
"And I basically felt nothing. Then, six months ago, I was in London and was invited to go see the new Olympic Park. I felt nothing but happiness for what they've achieved. I have not one negative feeling about the experience I went through."
Hilliard, whose 16-year-old Wendy Hilliard Foundation continues to provide free gymnastics opportunity to inner-city children, has in-laws in London and will be at the Games “as a family thing.” Doctoroff will attend the Olympics’ first few days “as a private citizen.” Kriegel, now a senior advisor of project development at Related Companies since 2007, will watch on television.“Someone said to me the other day, ‘Poor London,’” Kriegel said, echoing the oft-expressed sense that staging the Olympics is a daunting drill of putting out security, logistic, linguistic and political fires. “They’re not poor,” Kriegel said. “It’s a great event. I think they’re lucky to have it.”
Doctoroff insisted he continues “to believe [a New York City Olympics] would have been a great thing. We definitely could’ve done it. And it would’ve been spectacular.”
What might have been -- all the glorious details of Olympic hoopla, global brotherhood and elite competition, a vivid festival of humanity and technology -- lives now only in those encyclopedic old NYC2012 bid books.
“I have mine right in front of me,” Kriegel said.
"Yeh,” Hilliard said. “Me, too.”