Global Networking for 2012 Olympics

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Dozens of ethnic nonprofit organizations are finally entering the internet age–in exchange for helping New York City secure the 2012 Olympics.

NYC2012, the nonprofit organization pursuing New York’s Olympic bid, arranged for free web site design and training for the organizations, which are all members of a project it calls the Nations of New York. A recruiting letter urges member groups to “help to reach out around the world to explain why Olympic Games should be held in New York.” Ranging from Asian American Communications to the Flatbush Haitian Center, they represent 75 countries.

The first 26 web sites have just been finished and are scheduled to be launched this spring. All of the sites will be linked to the NYC2012 homepage, in an effort to demonstrate the diversity of New York City. “The purpose is not only to aid these organizations,” says Justin Carr, manager of the Nations of New York. “It is to display support from the international communities.”

Through an agreement with the bid committee, last summer students at Pace University started to help design web sites for member organizations that wanted them. Pace created a course called “Website Design for Non-Profit Organizations,” allowing students to create the sites as part of their class work–then give the sites free of charge to the community groups, along with training in how to maintain the sites.

Nations of New York is continuing to recruit local groups and expects the web site design project to last at least until next July, when the winning Olympic city will be announced, according to Dennis Anderson, the Associate Dean at Pace University who oversees the project. At least one-third of the 375 Nations of New York member organizations currently lack their own web sites.

With deadlines approaching, these organizations’ support could be crucial next month. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), which consists of 125 members from 80 countries, will choose some or all of the nine applicant cities for the final list of candidates.

“There is nowhere in the world as diverse as New York,” says Carr. “The network provides an access point.” NYC2012 has made it clear that, according to IOC rules, the bid’s international promotion cannot start until this November, and lobbying IOC members in the name of the committee is also prohibited. But that doesn’t stop individual organizations from doing things on their own. “They can help through word of mouth,” says Lazaro Benitez, a spokesman for NYC2012. “And we hope the message goes back home to invigorate the [IOC] members over there.”

For some organizations, the effort is broader than word of mouth. “I have met 50 ambassadors in the past year,” says Danny Esquilin, Vice President of the Hispanic-American Sports Coalition, an umbrella organization representing more than 300 sports leagues. “Now I am helping through the Friendship Games,” which his organization is sponsoring.

Each year from now through 2008, Esquilin explains, the Friendship Games will coordinate with different countries to bring children from every continent to New York City to compete in games with local kids. The first event, starting this September, will be held with China, a country Esquilin says he thinks has “big influence with the IOC.” Adds Esquilin, “The program is about creating friendship, which is the key to getting the Olympics.”