NYC 2012: Imagining the Olympic Games in New York City


Olympic bid brochure, 2001. Paul Wiederecht Collection of Sports and Political Ephemera

From 2000-2005, New York planned a bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympic games. It was New York City’s first bid to host an Olympics and was managed by Daniel Doctoroff and his private non-profit organization, NYC2012. New York City was one of five candidates for the games but came in fourth behind London, Paris, and Madrid. Although New York City was a strong candidate, the bid was likely hurt by security concerns after 9/11, potential traffic problems, and the political rejection of the West Side Stadium which was supposed to be the Olympic Stadium.

In 2004, the N-YHS library received a donation of Olympic bid materials from designer Paul Wiederecht. The materials  include detailed maps and proposal descriptions from 1999-2003 and provide a glimpse into what New York might look like if the Olympics were being held here (an idea that was recently spoofed in the New York Times ).

Map of proposed Olympic venues in New York and New Jersey from 2001. Later plans changed the location of some venues. Paul Wiederecht Collection of Sports and Political Ephemera

The promotional materials emphasize that people from almost every country in the world live in New York City, thus making New York “the world’s second home.” The plans promised new construction of an Olympic Stadium on the West Side of Manhattan, an Olympic Village in Queens, an expansion of the Jacob Javits center, and new or updated venues in every borough as well as New Jersey. They assure swift transportation and state that no event would take place more than 35 minutes away from the Olympic Village.   Some of the materials were created before the September 11th terrorist attacks– including a photograph of a swimmer with the World Trade Center in the background.  Some early proposals continued to use this image but superimposed a memorial ribbon around the twin towers (see above brochure).

One brochure from 2001 describes the plan for the opening ceremony as a magical procession from the Olympic Village in Queens down the East River and around up the Hudson to the West Side Stadium.  There the Olympic torch was to be lit along with a laser of the Olympic rings sent into the sky.  This would cause another light beam to light up the top of the Empire State Building, then the September 11th Memorial and finally lighting the torch of the Statue of Liberty along with fireworks.

Although the specific plans outlined in the bid never happened, development plans for the Olympics did shape the way the city has changed in the last several years.  Rezoning for Olympic venues allowed for business and residential development of areas such as Manhattan’s Hudson Yards and the waterfronts in Queens and Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Perhaps this redevelopment is the most lasting legacy of the unrealized proposal.


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