One of the staunchest critics of New York City's plan to center its Olympic bid around a new West Side stadium is Salt Lake City transplant Brian Hatch. The 43-year-old urban planning consultant runs a Web site, NewYorkGames.org, that features criticism of the NYC2012 plan. In sum, Hatch argues that the International Olympic Committee will be scared off by the controversy and cost of the proposed arena and that the plan sends a negative message to poorer nations thinking of bidding for future Olympics. Edited excerpts of Hatch's conversation with BusinessWeek Staff Editor Brian Hindo follow:
Q: Why do you say the West Side stadium isn't only not crucial to New York's Olympic bid, but is actually a detriment?
A: The specific instructions from Jacques Rogge, the president of the IOC, are for bids to behave in a "modest" fashion. The Olympic stadium has never started construction during the bids. All eight new stadiums were started after the city was selected.
Q: You think Shea Stadium should be the centerpiece stadium for a more successful bid?
Q: I've been to Shea Stadium, and I've seen the new design for the West Side stadium, and I can tell you which one looks nicer to me.
A: But this is a two-week event. Do you spend $1.4 billion for two weeks? The IOC's answer is no. They have a policy saying that it wants to contain costs and complexity so that the Olympics [can come] to Africa, South America, [South Asia], and other places. Most places in the world have never [hosted an Olympics].
They've awarded 50 Olympics and not once have the Games gone to two continents. And the five rings [in the symbol of the Olympics] represent the five main continents. They're never going to get there if the IOC sends the message that gold-plated, super-high-end venues are a requirement.
Q: And you think awarding the Games to New York with this bid proposal would be sending the wrong signal?
A: Yes. It's a $12 billion plan -- it's not just the stadium. Rio de Janeiro and Cape Town couldn't possibly hope to pull off a $12 billion Olympics. But we could have put together a $3.5 billion plan that just used Olympic revenues and still left a solid legacy of some new facilities. That would have been a plan that would have reflected the sustainability that the Olympic movement is looking for.
[Instead], you have a stadium that's very divisive. You spend enormous sums at the last second, so other bid cities think they also have to spend same amounts of money at the last minute. This is not consistent with where the Olympic movement wants to go -- or needs to go.
Q: What are the other merits to [your] alternative plan?
A: [The winner will be] a city that's amenable to working with the IOC. Paris, Manhattan, and London really don't need the Olympics o- that's another reason for Queens [the New York City borough where Shea Stadium is located], which would jump at the opportunity to have a better introduction to the world than what people see on their TVs [during Mets baseball games].
And Queens would give the Games the Barcelona/Sydney effect. In the past, it hasn't been the great cities of the world that have hosted the great Olympics. Rather, it has been those [so-called] second-tier cities looking to move up. When they hosted their Olympics, Tokyo in '64 and Beijing (host of the 2008 Summer Games) weren't considered first-tier [cities]. The Games were their big moment. I think that's what the IOC looks for. We have that [same] opportunity here [in Queens].
Q: How did you get to be involved in this, in taking an interest in the New York City Games? Explain it to me.
A: Having been through the process [in Salt Lake City], the Olympics can be a great rallying point for the community. With the support from government and the private sector, it's a wonderful opportunity to get great things done. So I wholly support the notion of an Olympics.
I just think the venues and the projects they've chosen are the wrong ones. They should be advancing the Second Avenue subway, Lower Manhattan's recovery, and existing priorities, and stop creating new ones.
Q: You run a Web site critical of the bid at NewYorkGames.org. Are you paid for that?
A: No. I haven't received a penny.