The citizens of Paris owe Americans Sheldon Silver and Joseph Bruno a heartfelt merci with many beaucoups.
Silver and Bruno are the New York state legislative leaders who this week shot down $300 million in public financing toward construction of a $2 billion stadium on Manhattan’s West Side, effectively killing the Big Apple’s bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympics.
And voila! — hey, it’s an infectious language — with New York out, Paris is the frontrunner to be host city. London is a close second but the smart money, l’argent fute — OK, we’ll stop now — is on Paris and France could really use the lift.
The French don’t like their president; Jacques Chirac’s approval ratings are in the 20s. The unemployment rate is 10 percent-plus and rising. The economy is stagnant. The social contract of maximum benefits and leisure for minimal work is no longer affordable. And standing athwart any hope of a solution are powerful and intransigent labor unions. Even deriding the United States has grown tired and stale.
To top it off, the French voted down a proposed European Union constitution largely of their own devising. They suspect that France may not count for much in the world anymore and now it may not count for much in Europe either.
Through these somber, gray clouds comes a bolt of brilliant sunshine — the 2012 Olympics. It’s a sign of the depths of desperation that the French believe an event seven years off will be a tonic for what ails them now.
A New York Times reporter in Paris on the eve of the stadium decision dropped by a massive street fair boosting the city’s Olympics chances and was told by a French business executive, "The games would put Paris back in the saddle and lead it into the 21st century, get it out of its stupor."
Not a bad day’s work for a couple of New York pols.