New York's failure wasn't from lack of trying

Updated: November 28, 2005, 11:26 AM ET
By Darren Rovell | ESPN.com

The Olympic Games are defined by nationalism and athletic excellence, yet no prospective host city can win without the cold, hard cash it takes to get noticed.

Some New York taxpayers might have caused a stir about the public funds that would have been promised to the now-failed West Side Stadium, which might have hosted the opening ceremonies. But not many people have a right to be up in arms that New York was eliminated from the running for the 2012 Olympics on Wednesday. That's because New York is the only one of the five bid cities that has used solely private funding to promote the huge undertaking.

The International Olympic Committee says it wants to contain costs, but it asks enough questions to yield a 600-page bid book, which isn't exactly something one person can do in a 40-hour work week (and that's not even considering the people needed to fell the trees to give everyone hard copies).

That's why NYC2012 paid a design company called Two Twelve Associates $295,506 in 2003, according to tax filings.

And bid groups love to hire successful strategic planners. So NYC2012 paid $104,675 to George Hirthler, who helped Beijing secure the 2008 games, and $290,000 to NYC2012 executive director Jay Kriegel and his company. That was two years ago, the last date such financial information was available, and before the IOC formally accepted the city as an official candidate for the games.

Whether the cash was doled out for civic pride or to curry favor with the politicians involved, New Yorkers opposed to the Olympic bid don't have to worry about why the money wasn't spent on new books for school classrooms.

NYC2012 officials say that at least $50 million has been donated -- with millions more of in-kind considerations uncounted. Goldman Sachs gave a full floor of New York City office space so a staff would have a headquarters free of charge. The bid's colorful logo was handed over to the committee gratis from executives at Ogilvy & Mather. The logos were plastered on the luggage carousels at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport, thanks to donations by ad firm JCDecaux. Bloomingdale's not only sold the NYC2012 licensed apparel line but also donated $50,000 toward the effort.

Celebrities donated their time, including Meryl Streep, Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg, Jerry Seinfeld and Muhammad Ali. They either personally wooed voting IOC members or appeared in the committee's advertising efforts. Other donations allowed the committee to pay for 60 full-time staff members, secure an electronic billboard in Times Square and award $400,000 to the design firm that had the best design for the athletes' village.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg's company, Bloomberg, chipped in $100,000. Meanwhile, deputy mayor Dan Doctoroff -- whose idea it was to keep the money behind the bid a private endeavor -- was one of a select group of individuals who donated more than $1 million to fund the marketing behind the bid.

So a note to all New Yorkers: Even though the group of 55 executives and athletes -- selected by NYC2012 to travel to Singapore for Wednesday's vote -- came back with no Olympic prize, don't gripe about how much taxpayer money was wasted trying to bring the Olympics to town.

That's for the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Pipe Fitting Industry to be upset about. (The group donated $25,000.)

Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.rovell@espn3.com

Darren Rovell | email

ESPN.com Sports Business reporter