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Game Plan

The world's most glamorous cities are vying for the 2012 Olympic Games. Here's a look at New York's competition.

The 39 cities that have hosted the summer and winter Olympic Games for the past century have taken a mixed approach to the task, reflecting the issues of their times more than the particularities of place or the universality of the event. The famoussor infamoussBerlin Olympics of 1936, awarded to the German capital before the Nazis came to power, became an opportunity for Adolf Hitler to demonstrate to the world, in an Albert Speerrdesigned stadium, the efficiency of Nazi Germany. In 1984 Los Angeles reused many facilities built for its 1932 Olympics, dressing up the city in banners and public art projects, like an Archigram Instant City. With its real urban problems papered over for two weeks, L.A. pulled off an event that was considered a triumph of corporate sponsorship and patronage, reflecting the Reagan era as much as the movie Wall Street. The organizers of the L.A. games predicted theirs would become the model for future Olympics, since it made a profit of $223 million, but other cities haven't been as lucky. Atlanta barely survived its 1996 stint, reportedly losing hundreds of millions of dollars, though it did add over 5,000 units of low-cost housing to the city in the process.

Today, the competition has become a war of battling trophy buildings by star architects, with New York City leading the way (see page 1 and Issue 2.3.2004). Historically, the Olympics have proven to be capable of spurring the creation of public amenities like parks, housing, and sports facilities. The latest strategy is the use of celebrity designs as a wedge to open neighborhoods to gentrification, for example, bringing spectacular housing by the likes of Zaha Hadid and MVRDV to Queens, one of the most mixed-income residential and manufacturing areas of the city. It's worth noting that all the 2012 bids (except Havana's, which has not been made public) call for 70 to 80 percent of their budgets to come from private investment and 20 to 30 percent from public resources.

Leipzig's bid includes an 80,000-seat stadium designed by Peter Eisenman that can break down and be downsized or carted away, leaving open space and parks more appropriate to the scale of the small Saxony village. Leipzig is the anti-Los Angeles of the Olympics, offering a pleasant, small town experienceea new approach that may prove that the Olympics does not have to be the great invasion feared by residents. Havana is also playing up the modest Olympics angle, carrying its anti-commercial, anti-big platform to the extreme by barely publicizing its bid. Every plan, in fact, is notably restrained, responding to the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) call for quick commutes and sustainable development.

Module parts of Peter Eisenmann's Stadium for Leipzig Dominique Perrault's "the Magic Box"

On May 18th, the IOC will announce which of the nine bidding cities have been accepted as official candidates. The host city for the 2012 games will be named on July 6, 2005. The contenders:

Havana

Nowhere near able to match its rivals' investments in architectural or infrastructural projects (or even a website) to enhance its Olympic bid, Havana is, unsurprisingly, banking on high-minded social ideals to make the cut. The Cuban Olympic Committee (COC), headed by Jose Ramon Fernandez, who is also the vice-president of Cuba, points out that the Olympics have never been held in the Caribbean and only once before in Latin America (Mexico City, 1968). Many feel it's about time the games are awarded to a developing country.

Furthermore, Fernandez argues that the country deserves to be awarded the Olympics for its sporting achievements. Cuba consistently performs well at international sporting events (for example, winning 11 gold, 11 silver, and 7 bronze medals at the Sydney Olympics))far out of proportion to the size of the island's population of 11 million. The priority should be athletic merits, not a nation's wealth or sponsors or television,, he said in a press conference announcing the city's bid. Cuba is promising a modest, dignified, non-commercialized Olympics that restores emphasis on athletes.

Cuba uses sport, like the former Soviet bloc countries did, as a way to promote its socialist ideals. For this reason, the country actually has decent existing sports facilities. It even has an Olympic Stadium, built for the Pan American Games in 1991. Havana is the frequent host of conferences, is well experienced at organizing large-scale events, and has quality hotel accommodations as a result of its thriving tourist trade.

Havana's downfall will be its weak transportation system. The charm of the 1950s tail-finned Chevys, well-educated taxi drivers, and diverse buses (donated from countries around the world, still bearing original destination signs such as Oslo, Maastricht, Edmonton) will surely not be enough to convince the IOC to make the dream of Fidel Castro, an avid sportsman, come true.

Peter Eisenmann's Stadium for Leipzig

Istanbul

Istanbul is the only city in the world to straddle two continents, and its 2012 Olympic bid, themed The Meeting of Continents, plays up this unique condition. The city's bid argues that Istanbul's symbolic role as a bridge between Islamic and Judeo-Christian culture is especially appropriate given the current state of world affairs.

Istanbul yearns to reclaim its status as a superpower city. Its bid marks the city's fourth consecutive attempt at hosting the Olympics. An 89 percent approval rating further proves Turkey's determination, but the city's relatively weak infrastructure continues to place Istanbul as a long-shot contender. The city's chances have improved since its last bid, however, due to the 2002 completion of the 80,000-seat Ataturk Olympic Stadium and a brand new subway system that is still in the process of expanding.

The $120 million Ataturk was designed by Michel Macary and Aymeric Zublena, the same French architects responsible for the Stade de France, Paris' key Olympic stadium, in collaboration with local architect Doruk Pamir. The architects opted for an open top to the concrete brut design after the Stade faced serious humidity problems due to its closed-roof construction. Still, the stadium shelters 54,000 spectators, 36,000 of whom are protected on the west side by a monumental canopy in the shape of a crescent, the symbol of Turkey. The dramatic semi-circular roof is suspended between two 60-meter poles set over 200 meters apart, serving as yet another metaphor for Istanbul's role as the link between Europe and Asia.

The Ataturk Olympc Stadium designed by Michel Macary and Aymeric Zublena

Leipzig

Leipzig, a city in Saxony known for its Renaissance and Baroque buildings and classical music venues, is an unusual Olympic contender. Its compact historical center and quiet residential suburbs could be a plus for the 2012 bid, though. The IOC wants simple and compact games and we are perfectly suited for that,, said bid manager Peter Zuehlsdorff.

The Leipzig proposal, which is based on a 2001 feasibility study by Albert Speer, Jr., features flexible designs by a number of big-name architects, including Peter Eisenman, Dresden-based Peter Kulka, and Berlin-based Barkow Leibinger Architects. Kulka's project connects various sports arenas with transparent, cloudlike structures and numerous bridges crossing Leipzig's river basin. After the games, Kulka's stadium will be melted down,, leaving a smaller arena. Eisenman's stadium is also designed to be downsized after the games, leaving an arena more appropriate for Leipzig's population of 500,000. Assembled out of movable modules, the stadium will provide seats for 80,000 during the Olympics, and can be downsized to a stadium for 20,000 once the games are over. Or the whole thing can be taken apart and relocated after the games.

The Olympia Pavilion, designed by Barkow Leibinger, will function as a signn and traffic knot,, according to the architects, a highly visible marker located on an important thoroughfare leading to the main Olympic grounds. The pavilion, which will house exhibitions during the games and later serve as a sports museum, has a dynamic, irregular faaade, wrapped with textile ribbons.. If Leipzig wins the Olympic bid, the facility could be built as early as 2006, to act as a media center for the FIFA World Cup.

Barkow Leibinger's information center, Leipzig (above) Foreign Office Architects, EDAW, HOK Sport, and Allies and Morrison's master plan for London 2012 >

London

London's 2012 bid follows the Barcelona model of Olympic development. The bid proposes a scheme in which the games serve as an engine to spur city improvements, leaving behind a sustainable legacy after the games. Keith Mills, chief executive of the bid, was quoted in the Telegraph as saying, There will be no white elephants at the London games. We'll build what we need and no more..

Though London's planned new venues have not yet reached the design stage, Foreign Office Architects completed the master plan for the project, situating 70 percent of all venues within a 500-acre park 13 kilometers outside central London in the Lower Lea Valley, a river flood plain and run-down light industrial area. The park, designed by EDAW, an international urban design and planning firm, will restore the flood plain by removing existing river walls. London-based Allies and Morrison Architects and HOK Sport are also involved with the London bid.

An Olympic stadium, velodrome, aquatic center, and media center will be built along the valley in a plan that takes into account Richard Rogers' Millennium Dome, situated 5 kilometers away, which will be recruited to serve as an Olympic venue. Norman Foster's new Wembley Stadium, dubbed The Church of Footballl with its curved, partially retractable roof, will be completed in late 2005 and will serve the 2012 games.

The key to the success of London's plan will be a reorganized transport system capable of shuttling visitors from central London out to the valley. Rail infrastructure already exists but new stations will be needed. The city's bid hopes that 90 percent of visitors to the Olympics will be able to commute by train, given London's congestion problems and corresponding steep tolls for motor transport. Athletes will be housed within walking distance from most venues in the valley, though commutes to distant venues like Wembley could be daunting.

Cruz & Ortiz's design for the enlargement of La Peineta stadium in Madrid

Madrid

Madrid's bid for the Olympic Games of 2012 comes at a time when the city is already immersed in an extensive process of urban transformation, spurred by economic prosperity and heavily dependent on designs by signature architects. Pei, Cobb, Freed & Partners, Foster and Partners, Rubio & lvarez Sala, and CCsar Pelli are building new office towers. The city's cultural institutions are being enriched by Herzog & de Meuron's Caixa Forum, Jean Nouvel's addition to the Reina Soffa Museum, and Rafael Moneo's extension of the Prado Museum. And more projects are working toward fortifying Madrid's historic urban center, such as the reconstitution of the Prado axis by lvaro Siza and the expansion of open space with new parks such as La Gavia by Toyo Ito. Finally, Madrid is seeing its residential panorama enlivened with new dynamic proposals by international architectural studios like MVRDV, David Chipperfield Architects, and Morphosis, in collaboration with local Spanish teams.

As is the case with other bidding cities, staging the Olympics will give Madrid the chance to develop new sporting facilities and upgrade existing ones. Won by an international competition in 2002, the new Olympic Tennis Center by Dominique Perrault is conceived as a multipurpose magic boxx with dozens of indoor and outdoor courts, and cultural spaces. Seville-based Cruz & Ortiz is expanding La Peineta stadium, which they designed in 1994. The stadium's new neighbor will be an aquatic center by Juan Joss Medina, also won by competition.

The proposed projects are supported by Madrid's highly developed transportation networks, soon to be enhanced by the new terminal of the Madrid-Barajas Airport by Richard Rogers and Estudio Lamela. Though the airport is just 12 minutes from the city center via the underground metro, the airport expansion includes plans to link it to all the Olympic venues, as well as the commuter train system and the regional High-Speed Train (AVE).

Dominique Perrault's design of the Olympic Tennis Center in Madrid has been nicknamed "the Magic Box" >

Moscow

The year 2012 would mark the 100th anniversary of Russia's participation in the Olympics. According to the Moscow bid, the city hopes to use the opportunity to introduce a new and democratic Russiaa to the world. The city last hosted the games during the Communist era (1980). The city's previous experience could benefit its bid by proving it is capable of hosting the games, but it could also be damaging if the IOC considers the 32-year interlude as too short to merit a double-play.

Moscow's bid concept, Olympic River, builds on the social and cultural importance of the city's river by situating many of its developments along its waterfront. Most of the city's venues served as Olympic facilities in 1980, like the Luzhniki, Krylatskoe, and Olympiskiy complexes, but some new projects are planned as well, including a new 200-acre Olympic Village and a 17,000-suite residential-style Media Village. Moscow also boasts a strong transportation infrastructure, starring an excellent subway system that meets 90 percent of the city's commuting needs, carrying six to eight million passengers daily. The city also plans to create a fourth ring road and a number of new expressways before 2012.

The Stade de France built for the 1998 FIFA World Cup anchor's the Paris proposal. Designed by French Architect's Michel Macary and Aymeric Zublena, who also designed The Ataturk Olympic Stadium
 

Paris

With its compact plan, high-quality transportation facilities, and substantial experience with hosting world-class sporting events, Paris is the bookmakers' favorite for the 2012 Olympics, even though public approval for the project is low (compared to other cities), at 75 percent. The Parisian plan situates the majority of its Olympic venues in two clusters, one to the north of Paris, centered on the Stade de France in St. Denis, built for the 1998 World Cup; and the other in the 16th Arrondissement, home to the Roland-Garros Stadium, built in 1928 and upgraded in 2000. The Olympic Village, to be designed by French architect Frannois Grether, is situated in Batignolles, on a 50-hectare site that is 6 kilometers from each cluster. It includes a 10-hectare park, which will be constructed regardless of the success of the city's bid.

Most of the sports venues Paris plans to use for the Olympics already exist, though the city is planning to start construction on five new stadiums in 2009. Three of them will be located within the two clusters: the Dome, for volleyball, the SuperDome, for artistic gymnastics and basketball, and the Aquatics Centre. The other two will be outside the city: the Velodrome, in St-Quentin-en-Yvelines, and the Shooting Centre in Versailles. The plan also makes clever use of historic landmarks. The Eiffel Tower's foundation is slated to be transformed into a beach volleyball court, the Chhteau de Versailles' grounds will become a cycling track, and the historic Longchamp racecourse, built in 1857 and upgraded in 1966, will house equestrian events. According to the Paris 2012 bid, the rest of its new construction will be for temporary use only.

Rio de Janiero

Rio's bid claims passionn is the most abundant resource the city can offer the Olympic Committee: Passion for nature, the environment, life, sport, excellence, and the future.. Indeed, Rio 2012 is playing up the city's festive reputation, emphasizing music, dancing, street performancess[and the] spirit of celebrationn on its website.

Rio's Olympic theme, One Village, One City, One World, alludes to the city's planning strategy which fits all of its venues within the city limits, not more than 20 kilometers apart, in four separate zones: Barra, Sugar Loaf, Maracann, and Deodoro.

The Barra region constitutes the jewel in Rio's Olympic crown,, according to the Rio 2012 website. Situated on one of Rio's lagoon beaches, the area is one of the city's fastest growing, which means developers will have no trouble marketing its residential and commercial real estate after the games are over. Barra will house a number of new venues which are already under construction for the 2007 Pan American Games, including a new Olympic stadium with an 80,000-seat capacity. A linear park, the Olympic Boulevard, will extend along Barra's beachfront, linking the new Olympic Village with the ring road to Sugar Loaf and Maracann. Sugar Loaf, another white sand, clear water paradise 20 kilometers away from Barra, will house mostly outdoor events like beach volleyball, canoeing, cycling, and sailing in mostly existing or temporary facilities.

Deodoro and Maracann are both inland sites in need of the type of economic rejuvenation the Olympics can ignite. Deodoro offers 5 million square meters of green rolling hills, which will be used for equestrian and shooting. Maracann Stadium, the largest in the world and the soul of Brazilian football,, according to Rio's bid, will play a significant role in the region's plans, along with two new arenas. One of them, the $166 million Jooo Havelange Stadium designed by architect Carlos Porto, is currently under construction, also for the Pan American Games, and is scheduled for completion in 2005. The developers of the Havelange hired Minneapolis-based Ellerbe Becket as engineering consultants. The 45,000-seat enclosed structure will focus on environmental friendliness, with a roof designed to capture rainfall with which to water the grass field.
PRODUCED BY DEBORAH GROSSBERG, WITH CONTRIBUTIONS FROM ALEXANDER EISENSCHMIDT, CATHY LANG HO, WILLIAM MENKING, LAURA MULAS, KESTER RATTENBURY, BBKE URAS, AND JAMES WAY.

Whetting the Olympic Dream

New York City's Olympic bid committee, NYC 2012, has made some great design decisions including the choosing of finalists for its Olympic Village. However, as the very powerful private organization prepares to make its final push, Andrew Yang asks, How much does the city really need the Olympics?

While the International Olympic Committee won't be announcing the host city for the 2012 Olympics until July 2005, NYC 2012, the non-profit private organization funded by large corporations and private donors that is initiating New York's bid, is commissioning enough work to build a small city. In fact, a small city is what NYC 2012 has most recently announced.

After an initial round of RFQs, NYC 2012 selected five architects to submit designs for an Olympic village in Queens West, near Long Island City: Henning Larsens Tegnestue, Zaha Hadid, Morphosis, MVRDV, and a mostly hometown team consisting of Smith-Miller + Hawkinson, Ralph Lerner, Shigeru Ban, Julie Bargmann and others.

The plans, which will be presented publicly this March, will be both a building and an urban plan. The architects will be concerned with fulfilling the Olympic program, but also creating market-rate (read: non- dormmstyle) housing on a site near Long Island City. While the village will house 16,000 athletes and coaches during the Olympics, it could house nearly 18,000 residents after the Olympics are over. They appropriately put a very high premium on design,, said Ralph Lerner. The Olympic (and post-Olympic) Village would be the first residential complexes for many of the designers. Because New York City is competing to host the Olympics, the architects are not guaranteed a commissionn yet. However, the quality of proposals and designs will be contributed into New York's candidature file, from which the ultimate decision will be made.

From the start, NYC 2012, founded by Daniel Doctoroff, now the deputy mayor for economic development, has been courting good design. It has already commissioned biggies like Hardy, Holzman and Pfieffer, Deborah Berke, and Rafael Viioly for speculative designs into the all-important candidature file. I'd like to think that the tide is turning [for good design in New York],, said Laurie Hawkinson.

Beyond the Olympic Village, there are much heralded infrastructure improvements including the Olympic XX plan, which extends east-west from Queens to Midtown to the Meadowlands, and north-south along the East river. The main elements of the Olympic proposal consist of fortifying existing sporting sites in all five boroughs, building new venues in key places like the Queens and Brooklyn waterfronts, and developing the west side of midtown Manhattan.

The linchpin of the plan is, and has been from the beginning, the development of a stadium for the New York Jets to be used as the official Olympic stadium, along with an anticipated extension of the number 7 subway line from 8th Avenue to 12th Avenue along 42nd Street. NYC 2012's estimate is a cost of $3 billion, not including West Side development, a city priority. In all, the Olympics may cost $6 billion.

Such a staggering sum and a complicated and nuanced vision has required cooperated planning between the private NYC 2012 and many city departmentssa difficult feat, or so one would think. While NYC 2012, the mayor's office, and the Department of City Planning are discreet entitites, the players involveddDoctoroff and Alexander Garvin, NYC's director of planning and a city planning commissionerr give every impression that the Olympics and the city's priorities are in tandem.

Doctoroff currently maintains no official association with NYC 2012, and Garvin has voluntarily submitted his positions for review to the city's very active and very pedantic Conflicts of Interest Board, which has very publicly given its permission. In fact, while there is nothing whatsoever to suggest that Garvin or Doctoroff's public and private roles are in conflict, The priorities between NYC 2012 and the city are completely aligned,, says Marcos Diaz Gonzalez, director of events for NYC 2012. (Incidentally, one of the private companies sponsoring NYC 2012 is Bloomberg, LLP.) However, the very massive and private efforts of NYC 2012, and the very public and civic-minded roles occupied by these two officials necessarily make the private and public boundary a delicate one.

Currently, several of the city's planning efforts, including Doctoroff's exploration into financing options for the West Side, are not being pursued solely for the sake of economic development, but are tailored to be especially accommodating should the Olympics happen. The Mayor's office recently opposed a power-plant proposal in Williamsburg, on the grounds that it was improperly situated in a residential area, anddmany speculatee that it interfered with the administration's plan to use the site as an Olympic sporting venue.

The Olympic Village site, Queens West, currently a four-phase development initiated by the Empire State Development Corporation, and involving such players as the Rockrose group, Kohn Pedersen and Fox, and Arquitectonica, would be significantly altered if NYC 2012 has their way. Even after borough president Helen Marshall told the Gotham Gazette last year that she thought the Olympics might delay Queens West development, which could potentially be completed before 2012, her office is now maintaining a careful stance. We have no problem with the [Olympic] village as long as it's done right,, said spokesman Dan Andrews.

Even if the convergence of city priorities and Olympic-planning priorities weren't an issue, what, exactly, would the Olympics bring that would be of long-term value to New Yorkers? NYC 2012 is heavy on talk of Olympic legacyy?the long- term effects of frenzied, multi-year preparation for a two-week eventt and what it will contribute to the city of New York. Since the West Side and Queens West are under-utilized areas that are transportation-rich and in attractive locations, their development would be beneficial for the city, and many of these projects have been on track and would be happening anyway, sans Olympics. The best and most original part of the proposal would be the acres of parks that it would add to the city (including the greening of Staten Island's Brookfield landfill). However, the importance of a state-of-the-art equestrian center is questionable for a city that prides itself on industries like finance, media, nightlife, and entertainment.

There can be a case made for the transit system, which has been engineered to link sporting venues. Those hubs will ostensibly link neighborhoods in the boroughs, despite the fact that neighborhoods aren't traditionally anchored by sporting venues. Organizations such as the Regional Plan Association are not studying the impact of the Olympics because, according to a spokesman, the Olympic proposal really isn't adding any kind of infrastructure, except for the extension of the number 7 [subway] line..

Additionally, the economic benefits of the Olympic Games have never been quite clear. The 1976 games left Montreal in long-term debt, while Barcelona thrived after the 1992 games. Athens is using the 2004 games to build a much-needed transit system, while Beijing is giving itself a total overhaullcomplete with a city master plan and a new skyline for 2008. Many of those cities will no doubt benefit from being in the purview of the rest of the world. However, does New Yorkkcurrently competing with London, Paris, Moscow, Madrid, Istanbul, and Rio de Janeirooreally need to be in the world spotlight more than it already is?

Beyond economics and value, then, the Olympics may just be a clever way of getting all of New York's improvements under one plan, and getting it done by a certain date. [The Olympic bid] is deadline-driven,, says Diaz Gonzalez. Financing, designing, and construction will have to follow a definite scheduleewhich would be an achievement. And that's difficult to achieve, especially in New York.. It's reasonable to assume that without a deadline of 2012, many of these capital improvements might take longer than necessary.While many organizations may be willing to help make the big push for the Olympics, there is one non-New York resident who makes a strong case against pouring the time and energy into such a massive undertaking. Last spring as a visiting professor in Geneva, Smith College economics professor and sports journalist Andrew Zimbalist spent some time talking to the IOC in Lausanne. Good bid cities, he said, are places that could benefit the most from improved public infrastructure, and are located in countries and continents that have not hosted it recently before. (North America will have been host five times since 1980, which is a huge strike.) Considering those factors, compounded by the global hostility towards the U.S. over the war in Iraq, his odds: 1 to 50.
Andrew Yang is an editor at PRINT and writes about art and architecture.