When I first moved to New York City in 2005, the big news that summer was the possibility of the Olympics coming to Gotham. Speculation was running high, especially when New York made the short-list. Mayor Bloomberg had a giant clock installed in Union Square counting down to when the decision would officially be announced, and people were gearing up for the announcement.
And then…nothing. New York City was eliminated in the second round. I was new to NYC at that point, so couldn’t – and wouldn’t – claim to be a New Yorker (though I’m getting close now, and I think having subway art that looks like me should count for something). However, I remember a sense of relief that we were not chosen. I had no idea if I would still be in NYC in 7 years, but if I was, I’m sure I would not want to deal with the traffic and logistical nightmare that comes with hosting a multi-sport, multi-country quadrennial event.
However, time has marched steadily on, and I’m still in NYC in the summer of 2012 watching NYC’s almost-Olympics take place across the pond. And while I really don’t care about the Olympics, I can’t help but wonder: what if the Olympics were being currently held in NYC? What would the past 7 years have looked like? I’m a big fan of the game counterfactuals (and dystopian futures), so my mind started spinning. So, I’d like to present to you with:
What if the Olympics were being held in NYC?
When New York City was picked to host the 2012 Olympic Games, the reaction was immediate and mixed. Many old school New Yorkers were dead-against it. After all, prices had been rising continuously since the mid-90s, and hosting the Olympics was bound to exacerbate the situation. The Bloomberg administration, however, was ecstatic. They immediately reset the big clock in Union Square to July 27, 2012. Bloomberg also passed an executive decision, which extended his powers as mayor until 2013. There was very little objection. The city and the state began to railroad through plans for housing and venues for the event. In addition, plans to extend the 7 Line Train and create a Second Avenue Subway line were moved forward and construction began almost immediately.
As opposed to the clock’s current use, which is a complete mystery.
As 2005 turned into 2006 and 2007, things went along swimmingly. Projects are completed (more or less) on time, and the general mood of the city is euphoric. Real estates prices continue to climb at an alarming rate, not just in Manhattan but in the boroughs as well. As the Queens East River waterfront is turned into a state-of-the-art Olympic Village, the working class is driven further into the borough, with no means of public transportation, as train expansion plans are only focused on Manhattan. The seedier sides that remain in the far west side of Midtown Manhattan are also wiped clean and begin to be replaced with the Olympic Square.
The Recession of 2008 is the first eye-opener that funding and building costs are spinning out of control. Projects that were already way over budget skyrocket above their original estimates. Turning the Williamsburg waterfront into a Beach Volleyball area costs nearly $500 million alone, and that’s just to pay for sand and netting. Workers begin to go on strike to protest the unsafe and frantic work conditions, delaying projects even further. Traffic is more congested than ever with the construction projects not working in conjunction with each other. However, as always, NYC continues to plug along.
As the first decade of the new millenium ends, things begin to settle down. Projects continue, and seem to be on track to be finished as scheduled, for better or worse. As people tend to do, they adapt to the constant construction, delays on the train, and general inconveniences of readying a city short on space for an event that requires a great deal of it. There has been a decrease in people moving to the city, as the tough economy and high prices do not make it the most attractive place to live. However, there are some silver linings. Martin Scorsese is tapped to direct the opening ceremonies, and plans to tell the story of New York City, with Robert de Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio playing prominent roles. And while most New Yorkers are unable to get tickets to any of the events, they do realize that they can make a pretty penny selling space on their couches to people from all over the country. Couchsurfing.org and Craigslist see a major boom in business.
Eventually, the Olympics arrive. Dignitaries from all over the world descend upon NYC. It’s like the annual UN meetings, but far, far worse. After a month-long heat wave preceding the opening ceremony, athletes and spectators are concerned for their health, but fortunately the heat abates in time for the events. Business comes to a standstill, as most New Yorkers cannot and will not leave their apartments to brave the traffic of subway congestion. Train delays reach unprecedented heights. New Yorkers also learn the hard way that offering your couch to an unkempt soccer hooligan can sometimes have drawbacks. Yet still the games continue.
For 2+ weeks New Yorkers suffer through what is most likely an updated version of Dante’s Inferno. Then, suddenly, it’s over. Everyone returns home, and New York is left with stadiums they can’t use, subways they can’t pay for without massive fare increases, and more trash than New Jersey can hold. However, while the Olympic experience was miserable and a waste of time, space and money, there were some glimmers of hope. When the world was united in celebrating the achievements of mankind (and for the first time in a long time, womankind), it all, for one brief moment, seemed worth it.
Wow, so I definitely paint a bleak picture. What do you, dear Wheelhouse reader think? Is there anything I missed, or should have elaborated on? Let me know in the comments!