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MAYOR TIES RATNER ARENA TO OLYMPICS - Brooklyn Paper

MAYOR TIES RATNER ARENA TO OLYMPICS

Mayor Michael Bloomberg this week officially linked the proposed Atlantic
Yards basketball arena to New York City’s 2012 Olympic bid.

In announcing the city’s final Olympic venue plan Thursday afternoon,
Bloomberg declared that all gymnastics competitions would take place at
the yet-to-be approved, highly contentious Atlantic Yards arena, instead
of at Madison Square Garden as previously announced.

The plan also calls for moving all swimming and diving competitions to
a new waterfront development in Williamsburg from a proposed site in Queens.

In the wake of the mayor’s announcement, an analyst versed in Olympic
politics said that while inclusion of the Atlantic Yards arena will allow
developer Bruce Ratner to “wrap his venue in the Olympic flag,”
it will also bring international scrutiny to the already controversial
plan.

“Now it’s an international issue, and people will be looking
if the Olympics should be responsible for displacing people from their
homes. It will bring some unwelcome attention,” said Brian Hatch,
a transportation consultant who was Salt Lake City’s deputy mayor
in 2002, when the Olympic Games were played there.

Hatch, who runs a Web site tracking the city’s 2012 bid for the Olympics,
calls the city’s plan “too costly, too complicated, too congested
and too controversial to win.”

“This hurts the bid by adding controversy. They don’t need all
these arenas,” said Hatch, who believes the inclusion of the Nets
arena — as well as the proposed Jets stadium on the West Side of
Manhattan — are veiled attempts to push through large-scale development
projects.

In fact, a press released issue by Bloomberg on Thursday said the city
intended to do just that.

The Olympics plan will “help us expedite recreational and infrastructure
projects citywide,” Bloomberg said. It will both “strengthen
our bid for the Olympic Games in 2012, and enrich the legacy that the
games will leave for our city.”

Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff, a driving force behind the Olympic bid and
the $5 billion West Side project, has hinted since January that the proposed
800,000-square-foot, 19,000-seat Brooklyn arena — part of Ratner’s
proposed $2.5 billion residential and commercial buildup east of the junction
of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues, would be included in the Olympic Games.

Opponents of the arena decried the mayor’s inclusion of the proposed
arena in the Olympic bid, but Borough President Marty Markowitz said the
move was a great boost for the borough.

“Who would have dreamed, even 10 years ago, that Brooklyn would be
considered to host the gymnastic competition, one of the Olympics’
most popular sports,” said Markowitz, who also praised the inclusion
of a Williamsburg waterfront facility.

New York is competing with London, Paris, Moscow and Madrid to host the
2012 summer games.

This week’s changes will be submitted to the International Olympic
Committee by Nov. 15. The IOC will make its final decision on July 6,
2005.

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