by | Nov 21, 2008 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

NEW YORK — No. No. A thousand red lights no! New York City hosting the Olympic Games? Who came up with this idea? Someone stuck in a taxi, trying to get across town? Yeah, here’s what we need. More . . . people!

Somehow, in a runoff that makes Mondale-Coleman look normal, New York was selected as America’s official bid for the 2012 Summer Games. The city it beat out was — and I hope you’re sitting down — San Francisco. Right. Because when it comes to late August, where would you rather be — alongside a breezy Pacific Ocean or inhaling bus fumes in 90-degree heat?

The official reason the Big Apple was given the nod was that it promised several billion dollars’ worth of improvements and an Olympic Village from which the average distance to a venue “would no more than 6miles,” or, in New York City traffic, three years.

The unofficial reason was: sympathy.

That’s right. People felt sorry for New York and the 9/11 attacks. Some civic leader, upon winning the bid, actually blurted out, “This will show the terrorists that they didn’t win!”

Right. I’m sure whatever cave they’re hiding in come 2012, when the platform diving event begins, those terrorists will really be ticked.

Now I can think of a million reasons why this city is the absolute wrong place for the Olympics, beginning with that guy over there urinating on the wall. But let me just offer five:

Too many human beings

* 1. Congestion. This city is inches from gridlock right now. Imagine trying to clear team buses, security vehicles and, of course, the limos for the International Olympic Committee. Not to mention a million or so spectators. In Seoul, South Korea, in 1988, they sent half the city’s population to the country for three weeks just to clear up congestion. And that was Seoul! And that was 1988! Imagine New York City 10 years from now. How will you explain to the Romanian people that their gymnastics team had to forfeit because a trash truck was blocking 43rd Street?

* 2. Attitude. The best Olympic Games are always in cities that are thrilled to be recognized. That’s why the Sydney Olympics were so great. Here was a city looking for the world to discover it. Same with Lillehammer. Same with Barcelona. Same with Sarajevo.

But who doesn’t already know New York? You think New Yorkers will be excited by a group of Burmese tourists? You think they’re going to say, “Hey, what language are you speaking?” Are you kidding? They say that every day to their taxi drivers.

* 3. Security. The more people there are, the harder it is to keep them safe. What city has more people? How big a perimeter can you watch? Besides, in New York, any suicide terrorist with a wacko thought could do immense damage to thousands of people without ever coming near an Olympic venue. You remember the bomber in Atlanta? You think that guy got a lot of media exposure? Putting this big a stage in New York City is like engraving invitations to a lunatic.

Too many sponsorships

* 4. Infrastructure. This is a city that is tying to raise property taxes to cover its huge deficit. How will it build new stadiums, a new subway system, new roads and new housing? Not with public money. It has promised to go to corporations — which, in return, will want massive exposure. Welcome to the Nike Subway Line and the Pepsi Off-ramp.

* 5. Motivation. This is really the worst part. The idea that New York needs the Olympics to heal its wounds is embarrassing. The people of New York proved their resiliency in the months after 9/11. They don’t need to host an archery event to feel good.

In short, we can only hope that one of the other competing cities — Paris, Moscow, Rio de Janeiro, Istanbul or Budapest — ultimately gets the nod.

David Letterman joked that New York won its bid “the old-fashioned way: hookers and cash.” There must have been some booze, too. Only the inebriated would have thought this was a good idea.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com. “The Mitch Albom Show” airs 3-6 weekdays on WJR-AM (760).


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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