Sunday, March 20, 2011

Football Focus: New York’s 2012 Olympic Games loss is Big Apple’s gain

In the summer of 2004, I stood at the window of a friend’s swanky new 1st Avenue apartment in Manhattan. The view, facing east towards Queens, didn’t provide quite the aura of wonder and opportunity that a west-facing glance of the city always does.

We were almost exactly 12 months away from the exhaustive ballot that would choose a host city for the 2012 Olympics. Madrid, London, Moscow, Paris and New York were in contention.

If New York were to win, the view we gazed at through the ceiling-to-floor windows were scheduled change dramatically.

The boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn would become transformed by waterfront and marina developments in our immediate view, with indoor arenas and parks just a quick subway ride into the distance.

You might recall that the ballot took place in Singapore. London won and the view from my friend’s apartment, though fascinating, remains less than grandiose.

But New York’s loss has in part caused a sizeable gain and very much in the way New Yorkers might have chosen, if you’d given a ballot paper to them.

The aquatics, equestrian and archery venues that would have been spawned, have over time given way to the sports that New Yorkers really care about: Baseball, basketball and the NFL (National Football League - no, not soccer). If you like American sports, it all means that New York has become an even better place to take your vacation.

The planned Barclays Center, which was going to be the home of Olympic gymnastics and basketball went ahead and will soon house the currently New Jersey-based Nets basketball franchise in Brooklyn — the first time the borough has hosted a major league franchise since baseball’s Brooklyn Dodgers left for Los Angeles in 1957.

Rapper Jay Zee and the even (in fact, considerably) wealthier Russian Mikhail Prokhorov are ensuring a sterling future for the Nets. Having lost out in the trade for four-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony, the shrewd move of signing Deron Williams looks certain to revitalise what, less than a year ago, was the worst team in the sport.

Anthony, ironically from Brooklyn, chose the Manhattan-based New York Knicks over the Nets, when he left the Denver Nuggets. Added to a team that was already looking like a solid bet for the playoffs, they now threatens to ruffle the feathers of all but the best in the East, with even stronger prospects next season.

Ongoing renovations to the historic 20,000-seat Madison Square Garden will also help take Knicks fans from years of mediocrity to the exciting nights they remember from the early ‘70s and early ‘90s.

Baseball has seen a similar renaissance in New York. In December
I toured the new Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, two seasons after it’s unveiling from the original venue just across the road.

It has all the magnificence of the old Yankee Stadium, except everything’s better. More spectators are immediately adjacent to the field, concession stands are plentiful, various and in clear view of the action and its subtle change in orientation seems to favour more home runs — although nobody quite seems to understand why.

In Queens, also in April 2009, the New York Mets moved to a new ballpark Citi Field, in Flushing Meadows, a stone’s throw from their previous stadium.

I haven’t been yet but non-partisan New Yorkers tell me that the 41,800 capacity venue is even more luxurious than the 50,000-seat Yankee home across the East River.

A zippy drive or transit ride underneath the Hudson River will take you from Manhattan to East Rutherford, New Jersey where the dated but impressive Giants Stadium has made way for the 82,566 capacity New Meadowlands Stadium — a 50:50 venture between NFL franchises the New York Jets and the New York Giants.

Despite the fact that it’s likely to be buried under several feet of snow, it’s regarded highly enough to host the 2014 Superbowl, the first time ever that the event will be hosted in the New York metropolitan area.

With New York Rangers ice hockey at Madison Square Garden, the New York Red Bulls playing soccer in Harrison, New Jersey and New York Cosmos soccer set to re-invent itself, if you’re looking for a vacation with a spectator-sport feel, try munching on the Big Apple.
by Steve Dawson, ESPN

The Jakarta Post

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