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NY Olympics not a crazy idea

Sunday, May 18, 2014
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On first blush, any talk of New York City hosting the 2024 Olympic Games should be met with a defiant,"Fuggedaboutit."

But the idea — first pitched for the 2012 Games and revived by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week — isn't as far-fetched as it seems.

Put aside the obvious security and traffic concerns, New York has a lot of advantages that many potential host cities don't have, advantages that could defray the usual expenses and avert the financial baths taken by recent Olympic hosts, including Beijing, Sochi and Athens.

In contrast to its bid for the 2012 Games back in 2005, the city won't incur as many expenses as it had planned to undertake at the time. That's because the city has already built some of the venues it had proposed building for the Olympics back then, including Citi Field in Queens, a new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands.

In addition, it's improved its transportation system by extending subway lines, adding bikeways, repairing the George Washington Bridge and replacing the Tappan Zee Bridge, slated for completion in 2018.

Many improvements planned for 2012 — such as using the fields near the old 1964 World's Fair grounds for certain sports, building an athlete residential park and stadium that could be converted to apartments and shops after the Games, and replacing the city's inadequate Javit's convention center — are all feasible projects for these Games.

With regard to security, perhaps no city is better equipped to deal with the threat of terrorism than New York. It regularly fends off terrorism threats with a combination of planning, manpower and technology. Just this past year, it handled the nation's biggest security threat, the Super Bowl, without a hitch.

As for transportation, the city has a major network of mass transportation in place. In 2005, it planned to dedicate specific lanes for Olympic travel to help ease the impact on regular New York commuters. That could still work in 2023.

Will the Olympics be a hassle for some of New York's commuters? Definitely. For three weeks of their lives, they'll endure overcrowded trains, overcrowded sidewalks, overcrowded restaurants, overcrowded hotel rooms and soccer. But consider the economic boost the city could gain from it.

London saw 590,000 visitors during the 2012 Games. That doesn't count the 25,000 athletes and officials directly associated with the Games, or the 16,000 members of the media who showed up. Now add in thousands of construction jobs to build new Olympic venues and the temporary summer jobs that will be created to staff the Games.

London, which hosted the 2012 games, by several accounts, saw its economy jump 3 percent, thanks to an estimated $20 billion in economic development and tourist revenue. Olympic-related tourism is reportedly still paying dividends. That $20 billion is gross revenue, of course. London spent $15 billion to host the Games. Even then, the city likely made a profit despite the expense. New York, with many venues and necessary infrastructure already in place, might easily make out even better financially.

Is it a lock that the city can handle the Games and keep it from turning into a financial and logistical nightmare? No. Much more thought needs to go into this plan before officials decide to put together another pitch to the Olympic Committee. But it's not the far-fetched idea it appears to be on the surface.

Rather than kill the concept before it gets off the ground, city and state officials should see where it goes.

 
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