For months now, we've heard how the upcoming Goodwill Games, to be held at venues here in Nassau County, in New York City, and on Staten Island, July 19 through Aug. 2, will be the greatest thing to hit this area since sliced bread.
"We'll get to showcase Nassau County," an untold number of county legislators have said.
"The economic impact of these games will be a great benefit to all area residents," was another oft-heard line.
But the tone of local government officials has changed lately.
After several television advertisements for the Goodwill Games began running on cable television this winter, advertisements that showed world class athletes doing their thing before New York City backdrops, several legislators reportedly complained to Time Warner, which owns and operates the games, and were told, in the words of one county lawmaker, "Too bad."
And it seems that now, three months out from the Games, lawmakers are even trying to ratchet down expectations about the number of spectators who'll be attending the games.
"This is more of a made-for-television event," Bruce Blakeman, the Nassau Legislature's presiding officer was heard to say the other afternoon.
So what happened to the Goodwill Games as a boon to Nassau, and the puffed out chests of local lawmakers, many of whom seem to now be scurrying away from the fallout of having invested $50 million in facilities that will see but a meager return from the games that inspired their construction?
Well, the fact is, it seems like some very simple things were overlooked, and while from the perspective of Mineola, Nassau County and its pols seem to be big time players, to an outside entity like Time Warner, Nassau, we have to admit, is just another county in a nation full of them.
While the $50 million spent on building new venues in Nassau for the games was always rationalized by the fact that the games would have a long-lasting ripple effect on our economy ¬ "We'll get to showcase the games" ¬ somehow the little things have been left to fall by the wayside.
For instance ¬ and forget the fact that the Wantagh Parkway, one of the main access ways to Jones Beach will still be under repair during the games, a fiasco in and of itself if one clicks on the Goodwill Games' web site on the Internet, the way the majority of potential spectators will likely find out information on the games, Nassau is infrequently mentioned by name, references being more common to "Long Island" and "the New York Metropolitan area."
What's worse though is that the relatively easy step of assuring that a Nassau County web page was linked to the Goodwill Games web site was never done ¬ a real opportunity for international publicity for Nassau lost. And as we say, technically speaking, it would have been a very easy thing to do.
Instead, apparently, lawmakers are content to promote Nassau in other ways, like holding hospitality dinners for certain, well-healed spectators once they get here, and giving everyone checking into a Nassau hotel that week a "goodie bag."
And then there's the official press kit for the Goodwill Games, which we received in our office last week. The Goodwill Games folder itself, chock full of press releases, bears a photo of an athlete running in front of the Chrysler Building. Inside, in addition to the press releases, was a New York City Convention Bureau Visitors guide and a more modest guide pertaining to all of Long Island.
While it is a wonderful and worthwhile thing that the Goodwill Games are coming to Nassau, and that our fair municipality will play host to nine of 15 events in a major international competition for two weeks this summer, if promoting Nassau was the main impetus behind securing these games, than our lawmakers have done not so great a job.
Instead of pumping up our community, thus far it seems the games have made many of our elected officials seem very small individuals indeed.