NEW YORK — Imagine photographers snapping photos of people they have never seen or heard about before. Imagine hundreds of people cheering, hoping that these people they also know nothing about can hear them. Imagine a city spending an estimated $750,000 a day to entertain this group of 13 people.
In the entire sporting landscape, there is perhaps nothing like a local organizing group in a room wooing the IOC in a face-to-face evaluation for the hosting rights for the Olympic Games.
There is no such thing as doing too much. The New York City organizers do not consider it strange that this particular room was mapped out, complete with architect's blueprints depicting chair-by-chair placement, just for the four-day presentation. Over the next couple of days, the IOC will spend hours and hours in this room learning the intricacies of the New York bid, just one stop in their five-city tour. The organizers don't have any qualms about telling the evaluation committee that breaks are planned to the minute, as are Wednesday's 30-minute jazz performance at the Time Warner Center and a two-hour meal at Mayor Michael Bloomberg's residence that evening.
"The bid process is the biggest Olympic event there is, and there is nothing like it," said Rob Livingstone, producer of GamesBids.com, an Olympic bid information Web site. "There isn't anything in the sports world where the stakes are so high. For a city to win, it will need about 55 votes. When it's over, that city will have spent at least $1 million per winning vote."
If only those who were waving flags at a Rockefeller Center rally Monday knew the complexity of what was going on in that room just 10 blocks away.
Think the IOC cares only about funding and the building of venues to go along with spectacular opening and closing ceremonies? If it were that easy, NYC2012 wouldn't need a lawyer who attended Harvard to run the bid. For New York to become an Olympic host city for the first time in its history, NYC2012 bid founder Dan Doctoroff and his crew must be prepared to answer questions concerning exactly 119 recommendations put forth by the IOC.
The cities that don't survive the ultimate test still have to pay $500,000 for the right to take it, and the questions are far from simple.
The organization that is responsible for awarding a sporting event that takes place over a two-week period is indeed concerned with the "irrigation rate," "raw material consumption" and "endangered species." Sure, ticket prices are important, but so are the "weight of public debt" and something called the "Gini income distribution index." Varied sporting venues are key, but a bidding-city representative is required to complete a table showing what the projected wind strength and amount of precipitation is expected to be around the venue during the time when the Olympic Games could come to town — more than seven years from now.
Doctoroff, New York's deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding, said 32 people participated in the presentation to the commission on Monday and six videos were shown.
"This is a work session," Doctoroff said. "They are very serious about what they are doing."
Then there are the rules to worry about. One of the hardest to follow might be that officials with bid cities aren't supposed to compare plans with competing cities.
"They say that you cannot disparage another city," said Jay Kriegel, executive director of NYC2012. "We prefer to be meticulous, though I would say that not everyone else has been that meticulous. At the end of the day, you focus on your own plan. You're not going to win by putting down another."
Kriegel might have been referring to comments made by Cherie Blair, the wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who took some heat for a comment last week. "We are going to win the bid," Cherie Blair said. "What does Paris know about culture?" Cherie Blair is an "ambassador" for the bid despite having no formal role in the process.
Part of the intrigue of the process is how little the public knows about the key decision makers and how little the group of 13 is actually seen over the four-day period.
They stopped momentarily upon arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Sunday night and again upon entering The Plaza soon after. On Monday morning, a five-minute photo opportunity apparently was cut short.
"It wasn't even a minute," said one photographer, upset he didn't get the shot he needed. "I got more time with President Bush."
The media isn't privy to the meetings. A pool reporter filed a report from the meeting room that described who was sitting where and gave a brief play-by-play.
"Not much happened in the couple of minutes we were in the room," the reporter wrote. "There were no speeches. Doctoroff, Bloomberg and [United States Olympic Committee chairman Peter] Ueberroth got up and walked around the front of the IOC table shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries. Then we were ushered out."
Because of the nature of the visit, odds are extremely low that any of the IOC members, who will vote on the host city in Singapore on July 6, will get in a cab or even walk much on a New York City street. Interaction with real New Yorkers will be limited.
Not that any of the hundreds of people waving flags and screaming at the rally would know if they bumped into commission chairwoman Nawal El Moutawakel, a gold medalist in the 400-meter hurdles in the 1984 Olympics. Nor would the Australian accent give up Simon Balderstone and Bob Elphinston, two commission representatives who formerly served as a journalist and a physical-education teacher, respectively. Some enthusiasts no doubt would like to make their case personally to the IOC's executive director of the Olympic Games, except they'd be hard-pressed to pick out Gilbert Felli, the one-time Swiss architect who holds that position.
Said Jonathan Gouveia, a New Yorker at the rally who supports the bid: "I can't name one [of the 117 IOC members]. I don't think any of my friends know of them either."
Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.