London Wins 2012 Olympics over Paris, New York

The Olympic dream ends for New Yorkers, at least for the 2012 Summer Games. London won the competition to host the games, surprising many observers who thought Paris would prevail. Other finalists included Moscow and Madrid.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

From NPR West and Slate magazine online, this is DAY TO DAY.

Coming up, as the leaders of wealthy nations called the G8 assemble in Scotland to talk about helping poor nations in Africa, we'll hear a voice from a marketplace in Tanzania in East Africa.

First, the lead. Hats and horns in London today after the International Olympic Committee this morning announced that the British capital will host the 2012 Olympics. Most experts had said the French would get this and the Olympics would go to Paris, but British Prime Minister Tony Blair had personally talked with the committee. At a press conference in Scotland today where he's hosting the G8, the prime minister said he'd been nervous about the announcement to the end.

Prime Minister TONY BLAIR (Great Britain): I couldn't bear to watch the final bit of it. And I've been trying to work on the G8 stuff, but I have to say my mind's been sort of two places at once today.

CHADWICK: We'll have more about the G8 later in the program. First, though, among the losing bids for the Olympics, New York City, where officials kept insisting in the face of stadium setbacks and mixed public reaction that their city had a good chance to get the Games. New York correspondent Mike Pesca has this report.

(Soundbite of music)

MIKE PESCA reporting:

For those who dream an Olympic dream, for those who arise before the morning sun, whose feet propel them forward mile after mile, whose hands grasp the oar or the barbell or even the epee as intimately as any craftsman holds a tool; for those who vault or tumble or spike, this day is not for you. No, this is for those who float not kayaks but municipal bonds, who stuff not basketballs but envelopes full of glossy, yet informative information packets. The Olympic dreams of the pitchmen are awarded today. And on the streets of Manhattan, the golden glint was in many New Yorkers' eyes, from those getting coffee at the Olympic deli on First Avenue, or here at the Olympic Diner on Delancey Street.

Rachel Tussman(ph) was waiting outside the Olympic Diner, anticipating New York becoming an Olympic city.

Ms. RACHEL TUSSMAN (New Yorker): Moscow's out. They did the first vote. It was hard to tear myself away from the television.

PESCA: It's one of those days, right?

Ms. TUSSMAN: Yeah, I think so.

PESCA: You'll always remember where you were.

Ms. TUSSMAN: Exactly. Right here on the corner of Delancey and Essex.

PESCA: But then the bad news came. The messenger for this reporter was not the wing-footed god Apollo but 64-year-old Lower East Side resident Mel Dannenberg(ph).

Can you sense the excitement in the air? Are people talking about the big announcement?

Mr. MEL DANNENBERG (New Yorker): What, the Olympics?

PESCA: That's the announcement.

Mr. DANNENBERG: We lost to--it's between England and France now.

PESCA: No, they haven't announced it yet.

Mr. DANNENBERG: Yes, they did. They announced it this morning.

PESCA: Wow.

Indeed, New York was out--before even the final ballot. And so the planned official announcement party at Rockefeller Center had taken on a much subdued tone. Those gathered patiently watched as IOC president Jacques Rogge announced the winner, complete with the lengthy opening of the ceremonial envelope...

(Soundbite of paper rustling)

PESCA: ...and the traditional bonking of the envelope into the microphone.

(Soundbite of envelope hitting microphone)

PESCA: And then they heard...

Mr. JACQUES ROGGE (President, International Olympic Committee): To the city of London

(Soundbite of cheering)

PESCA: The crowds, comprised by now almost entirely of journalists and dejected New York 2012 staffers, stirred but did not exalt until a man wearing a London T-shirt was spotted simultaneously by dozens of TV cameras. From afar, I saw him smiling and nodding as he was besieged with questions. I fought through the media thicket, and using my Henry Higgins-like linguistic skills, attempted to determine if the bloke was from, say, Regent's Park or the Clerkenwell section of London.

Mr. RICHARD KUPFERBERG (New Yorker): I was just hoping London would do it if not New York.

PESCA: Richard Kupferberg, media darling.

Are you from England?

Mr. KUPFERBERG: No, I'm not.

PESCA: Is it true you had different T-shirts for every city, and whoever won, you were going to put the right one on?

Mr. KUPFERBERG: No, I had New York's, but if New York wasn't going to do it, I was hoping London would do it.

PESCA: Well, what--were you wearing the London T-shirt the whole time?

Mr. KUPFERBERG: I had one in my bag.

PESCA: While London the T-shirt might have been in the bag, not so for London the city, which just squeaked by Paris to get the Games.

The other big winner in New York may have actually been Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It would seem that he lost. After all, getting the Olympics was one of his big causes. But just look at his other pet project--building a football stadium in Manhattan. When that plan failed, Bloomberg's approval ratings went up. Perhaps the same thing has happened here. Now that the city won't be getting the Games, Bloomberg's Democratic opponents have been robbed of yet another potential point of criticism. As with all Olympic events, some of the losers win medals, too. Mike Pesca, NPR News, New York.

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