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X MARKS THE SPOT / For Olympic planner, a mix of dreams and details

It is beside the point that Alexander Garvin "never really

paid attention to the Olympics" until he was recruited to plan one. Or that

Garvin, a high school miler, ended his athletic career as soon as he earned his

varsity letter. At 62, he said, "The sport I follow now is called opera. And

the best athletes are the ones who can hit high C."

Actually, his credentials are suitably Olympian: public official, author,

university professor, real estate executive, heavyweight in the world of

architecture and urban design.

Plus - and perhaps most important - Garvin describes himself as "a typical

New Yorker; very skeptical," even as he points to a lesson learned from famed

builder Robert Moses: "The art of getting things done is something you have to

include in all planning."

That could be the Olympic dichotomy in a nutshell: Be wary, be dreamy.

Garvin has done the physical planning for the 2012 Summer Games in New York

City, and "I am convinced," he said, they will get done. His "Olympic X"

blueprint - a simplified north-south, east-west road map through Gotham's

countless complications of congestion, municipal jurisdiction, security and so

on - is meant to answer whatever questions the International Olympic Committee

may raise.

"It's all trains and ferries," Garvin said, somehow making it sound closer

to a routine outpatient procedure than open-heart surgery. "We've made a plan

that does not intrude on the city of New York. And I genuinely believe that New

York not only will have the best Olympics ever, but that the Olympics will be

the greatest event ever in New York. Much bigger than the tall ships and the

bicentennial."

This production of operatic girth all springs from the bones of the "X,"

and it all started for Garvin with a 1996 telephone call - "out of the blue

from a man named Dan Doctoroff," he said.

At the time, Doctoroff, now a deputy mayor, was working as an equity

investment manager in midtown Manhattan and mulling a fairly outrageous

thought: that the Olympics belonged in New York because the Games, in his mind,

always have been Big Town's alter ego. To Doctoroff, both the Olympics and New

York bring citizens of the world together, both represent competition at the

highest level, both are about the pursuit of dreams.

In that phone call seven years ago, Doctoroff confided in Garvin, however,

that "everybody tells me I'm crazy." He asked Garvin, "Do you think we could

hold the Olympics in New York?"

Garvin said, "Sure."

Doctoroff asked, "How would we do it?"

Garvin said, "I haven't a clue in the world."

Garvin had just finished his exhaustive, prize-winning book, "The American

City: What Works, What Doesn't." He was, still is, a New York City planning

commissioner, and had been deputy commissioner of housing, a private developer

and a property manager. For the past 36 years, he has taught city planning at

Yale, his alma mater. Most recently, he served as vice president of the Lower

Manhattan Development Corporation, which is taking on the city's other massive,

long-range endeavor, the revival at Ground Zero.

It is safe to say that Garvin knows his way around New York City. Born and

raised on Manhattan's Upper East Side, where he still lives, he said he "spent

my entire childhood and adolescence in Central Park." Asked, as an architect

and planner, what his favorite building is in the city, he offered an

immediate, "Central Park."

His father, who emigrated from Russia in 1939, owned a canned meat factory

in Flushing; his mother was an artist whose sculptures sit among the many

paintings and countless CDs in his roomy apartment. Garvin's early interest in

gardening evolved into landscape architecture and then urban planning.

Hired by Doctoroff for the Olympic project - at the time, both believed the

New York bid would be for 2008, until the U.S. Olympic Committee proclaimed

that all American cities should wait for 2012 - Garvin traveled to Atlanta

shortly after the 1996 Summer Games to study venues there. He read bid books

and reports from the '88 Seoul Olympics and '92 Barcelona Olympics. He

recruited two of his former Yale architectural students, Chris Glasek and J.B.

Clancy, and examined "at least" 300 potential competition and training sites in

the metropolitan area.

"One day, in February [of 1997], I remember it vividly," Garvin said. "A

Tuesday. I got Chris and J.B. and I said, 'We know enough. Today we're going to

close the door, no telephone, and figure it out.' And each gave the same

answer: 'The Water Olympics.'

"I put a piece of tracing paper over a map and drew a line for the ferry

[along the East River] and one for the railroad [from the Meadowlands to Nassau

Coliseum on Long Island]. And that was the 'X.'"

Garvin hired a helicopter and spent three days taking aerial photographs

along his "X." NYC2012's 600-page bid book is filled with those photos as well

as computer-enhanced renderings of how he visualizes them for the Games. Among

the detail he has envisioned is a flotilla of tall ships sailing around the

southern tip of Manhattan from the athletes' village to the stadium for Opening

Ceremonies on July 27, 2012.

To gather yet more details, he took in five days of the Sydney Olympics

three years ago - "I was looking to see where the bathrooms were, where they

put the newspapers reporters and so on" - and found himself "impressed with the

live sites, the way people would gather in a park to watch the sports on a big

screen, and they'd be selling cappuccino while there was an acrobat climbing a

40-story building and others were preparing a jazz concert."

"Just getting on the trains with hundreds of people who were going to

events. It was stirring. Exciting. I went to see beach volleyball, which I

found enormously exciting; I thought it would be dull. I saw synchronized

swimming, equestrian competition, rowing. I was there when the great Australian

runner [Cathy Freeman] won her race. That was exciting."

Such a thing in New York, Garvin believes, and what it will leave behind,

could hit high C.

Olympic Contenders

Today the National Olympic Committees of at least nine nations submit their

applicant cities for International Olympic Committee consideration to stage the

2012 Summer Games. Among those will be New York City. The others are London,

Paris, Moscow, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, Havana, Istanbul and

Leipzig, Germany. Reports of possible entries from Milan, Cairo, New Delhi and

Abuja, Nigeria are not expected to materialize. In the spring, the IOC is

expected to trim the field to four to six candidates, which then would face a

final IOC vote in Singapore on July 6, 2005.

PARIS

Population: 2.1 million

GOOD

History of bright lights and romance, experience with 1998 World Cup soccer

tournament, finalist with Olympic bids for 1992 and 2008 and widely seen within

the IOC as rebellious political hero in war against Iraq.

BAD

Venues far-flung in a city with a reputation for caring more about dinner than

sports.

BOTTOM LINE

Early frontrunner, especially with the IOC's assumed desire to return to Europe.

NEW YORK CITY

Population: 8 million

GOOD

World's financial, entertainment and media capital, accustomed to

projects with international scope and complexity.

BAD

Economically ambitious bid assumes an enormous ongoing political will, a

reputation for gridlock endures, and Bush administration politics do not play

well in the IOC.

BOTTOM LINE

Technically the best bid at this point.

MADRID

Population: 3.9 million

GOOD

Experience with major international sports events, with good marks for

infrastructure and accommodations.

BAD

Overshadowed by stiff European competition, and Barcelona staged 1992 Summer

Games.

BOTTOM LINE

Great alternate to politically Motivated votes.

LONDON

Population:

7.7 million

GOOD

One of the grand world capitals and accustomed to major events.

BAD

Uneven political backing, significant construction necessary for most venues,

and a decision to decline the 2005 world track championships not helpful.

BOTTOM LINE

Good enough, but it comes down to the campaign the city runs to woo the IOC.

ISTANBUL

Population: 8.9 million

GOOD

Turkey's Olympic leaders have been persistent in repeated bids and there is

sentiment within the IOC to go to a Muslim country soon.

BAD

Infrastucture judged below IOC standards more than once, and Turkey is next

door to 2004-host Greece.

BOTTOM LINE

Will win votes intended to block others' chances.

RIO de JANEIRO

Population: 10.6 million

GOOD

Perfect for a big festival, and the IOC would love to go to South America for

the first time.

BAD

Unpredictable economy and is considered a step behind other major contenders in

ability to host Games.

BOTTOM LINE

Maybe in 2016 or 2020.

MOSCOW

Population: 8.4 million

GOOD

Another world destination with a history of big productions.

BAD

Post-Soviet economy continues to struggle, and old USSR political will for

sports extravaganzas has faded.

BOTTOM LINE

A finalist at best.

LEIPZIG

Population: 437,000

GOOD

Defeated four larger, better-known cities to become its national candidate, a

triumph for the old East Germany.

BAD

Incomplete bid plans include a recent attempt for more compact venues and calls

for a marketing strategy.

BOTTOM LINE

Not against this field.

HAVANA

Population: 2.3 million

GOOD

Hosted 1991 Pan American Games without incident and cares about producing an

international show.

BAD

No bid specifics have been made public and economic wherewithal is questionable.

BOTTOM LINE

No, lo siento.

New York Sports