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Stadium Ruling a Blow to New York's Olympic Bid

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

Supporters of New York's bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympics fear they are now a long shot. New York's bid depended on having a brand-new football stadium, one that could also be used for the Olympics. Yesterday, in a surprise move, a state board did not approve a proposed stadium on Manhattan's West Side. From member station WNYC, Andrea Bernstein reports.

ANDREA BERNSTEIN reporting:

The stadium's biggest booster has been Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He's helped the project clear a series of hurdles, but the biggest one has been the approval of the speaker of New York's Assembly, Sheldon Silver. Silver, who represents Lower Manhattan, has publicly fretted the stadium project as siphoning energy from the rebuilding of the World Trade Center. Bloomberg has been wooing Silver with incentives for Lower Manhattan, and almost everyone assumed that would lead to an agreement, but early yesterday afternoon, Silver took the podium at his offices in the state capitol in Albany.

State Representative SHELDON SILVER (New York): Am I supposed to turn my back on Lower Manhattan as it struggles to recover? For what? A stadium for the hope of bringing the Olympics to New York City?

BERNSTEIN: The criticism is nothing new for Silver, but concern about Lower Manhattan became more urgent this spring when financial giant Goldman Sachs puts its plans to build a new office tower near ground zero on hold and when designs for the Freedom Tower were scrapped for security reasons. While Silver was finishing up his press conference, Bloomberg was hosting one of his own. As he discussed the rejection of the stadium, his voice cracked with emotion.

Mayor MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (New York City): As for our Olympic bid, rejection of the stadium will seriously damage our chances at winning the 2012 Games. We will be talking to the United States Olympic Committee, which selected us to represent the United States and its citizens, about the situation.

BERNSTEIN: What exactly the US can do before the International Olympic Committee makes a decision next month is unclear. `Do you have a Plan B?' a reporter asked the mayor.

Mayor BLOOMBERG: The rules of the IOC--I don't know how many times I've told you this--say you submit your bid and then you cannot change it.

BERNSTEIN: The New York Jets issued a statement laying the blame for the project's defeat with the owners of Madison Square Garden who funded a multimillion-dollar anti-stadium advertising and lobbying campaign, but despite the campaign, many thought the project was too big to fail. They were shocked when they heard otherwise.

Professor DOUGLAS MUZZIO (Baruch College): My first reaction when I heard it was, `Wow!'

BERNSTEIN: That's Baruch College Professor Douglas Muzzio. He says Silver's action violated a rule of New York politics, that everyone has a price.

Prof. MUZZIO: The bottom line appears to be that the speaker has been speaking his mind.

BERNSTEIN: While the stadium debate was taking place in New York, in Lausanne yesterday, the IOC released a technical report evaluating the five bidding cities. Paris fared the best; Moscow, the worst. London, New York and Madrid received mixed reviews, with New York's biggest problem the as yet unapproved stadium. Monday morning, New York bid officials took that as a good sign, thinking they'd have the approval in hand by evening, but by then, even the biggest cheerleaders were expressing open dismay. There may be some effort to cobble together a proposal to take to Singapore where the IOC makes a final decision July 6th, perhaps conditional approval for the stadium if that could be achieved.

There was numbness in the NYC 2012 offices yesterday, as one staffer described it. Those offices are 33 floors up in a building that looks down at the still empty pit that is ground zero.

For NPR News, I'm Andrea Bernstein in New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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