NEW YORK CITY-And then there were two. The city has cleared a major hurdle in its $2.7-billion bidH to host the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, with San Francisco now the only US competitor left standing of the four previously shortlisted contenders. The US Olympic Committee made the hotly awaited announcement at 5 pm yesterday afternoon.

(For a look at one Olympic contender that didn’t make the cut, click on Astrodome’s Fate in Limbo With Olympic Loss).

According to recent projections, the games would have a regional economic impact exceeding $11.3 billion while creating jobs equivalent to one year of employment each for 135,000 people. Of course, the city’s 66,500 hotel rooms would be full for the duration and every square inch of tourism-dedicated space in town would be maxed out.

Renovations to parks and other facilities would total $1.2 billion. Funds collected from television rights, sponsorships, licensing agreements and ticket sales are expected to rack up roughly $2.7 billion. (As a non-profit event, that amount would also equal total expenditures, with any profits going into a contingency fund.) And capital expenditures–sports facilities, the Olympic Village, international broadcast center and training facilities, among others, would total roughly $987 million.

And now that the field has been narrowed to two, city officials are unabashedly ebullient. “I believe we are going to make it, not just today, but on Nov. 3, and we are going to be the winning city in the US,” New York City Sports Commissioner Ken Podziba tells, referring to the date when the winning bid is announced. “The plan is so good–it gets you from venue to venue quicker than anyone else’s does. That’s what [the USOC] looks for. That’s what I believe our plan does the best.”

But while the games certainly appear to represent an economic gift that would keep on giving long after the last shot has been put, the proposal by NYC2012–the committee leading New York’s Olympics bid–is not without soft spots. Probably the most obvious is traffic. While a system of trains and high-speed ferries would link the various competition venues, the sheer volume of additional vehicular and pedestrian traffic flowing through an already bumper-to-bumper and body-to-body Manhattan is almost unimaginable. On the other hand, the games are scheduled during July and August, when school is out, lowering mass transit use by roughly 400,000 riders per day. In addition, all the proposed venues are located near subway stations.

Then there is the opposition from neighborhood groups to the various sites that would be built or commandeered for the games. The 800-pound gorilla, however, is the stadium to be built over the West Side rail yards–a crucial component of the bid that continues to generate fierce opposition from area residents and watchdog groups throughout the city.

Across the East River, borough president Helen Marshall has expressed displeasure over the selection of the largely vacant Queens West area as the site of the Olympic Village. NYC2012 would like to see housing for 15,000 athletes, coaches and officials rise on the waterfront land.

Marshall, however, prefers Governors Island, recently returned to the city from federal ownership, as the Olympic Village site. “There would be no impacts on traffic or on any surrounding neighborhood or local business,” she stated in April. “Rather than interfering with an ongoing development that is already under construction in heavily-trafficked Long Island City, Governors Island provides a unique opportunity to accommodate an international community in a premier setting,” she added.

Once the USOC makes its pick, the US’ fate is in the hands of the International Olympic Committee. While only Moscow has confirmed its bid, more than 20 cities including obvious choices such as Rome and Paris, and others–Baghdad for instance–that seem farfetched at this point, are expected to throw their hats into the ring. The IOC’s final decision will be made in July 2005.

In addition to New York, San Francisco and Houston, Washington, DC was also a finalist until yesterday. Cincinnati, Dallas, Los Angeles and Tampa were eliminated from the running earlier in the process.

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