A Screw-up of Olympian Proportions
A Veto That Probably Destroyed Eight Million Dreams
This is the saga of two high profile, deeply flawed organizations joining forces to create a public relations catastrophe--New York City and the U.S. Olympic Committee.
A bunch of rich city slickers were able to con the rubes from Colorado Springs into choosing the Sour Apple over San Francisco for an Olympic venue.
But they could not con the canny pols in Albany and Manhattan into selling them the land at below-market value and ponying up $300 million of taxpayer dollars so the New York Jets football team could have a spiffy new stadium.
Was this PR black eye avoidable?
The definitive answer: "Maybe yes, maybe no."
New York City did a masterful job wooing the U.S. Olympic Committee. It spared no expense at a gala weekend in mid-January 2001 for a salute to the great Olympic coaches that featured Rudolf Giuliani and the legendary Tommy Lasorda.
On the following November 2, in Colorado Springs was the high-powered, final face-off between San Francisco and New York before the final vote on which venue would be submitted to the International Olympic Committee as the American candidate city.
The City by the Bay put on a dandy show with Robin Williams on video causing shrieks of laughter. But it was Billy Crystal live that left the audience weeping and weak with glee--plus the promise of grand new $2 billion stadium on Manhattan's West Side coupled with national guilt over 9/11--which nailed it for New York.
During this period the USOC began to implode. In May 2002, USOC President Sandy Baldwin was forced to resign after claiming on her résumé that she had a masters degree from Arizona State when it was discovered she never completed her dissertation. A year later the elegant and articulate USOC Chief Executive Lloyd Ward was axed for ethical breaches. This was followed by a string of firings, resignations and acrimonious departures ending with the ousting of Sandy Baldwin's successor, Denver real estate agent and former soccer mom Marty Mankamyer. The USOC in utter disarray took its eye off the New York City ball.