Already facing unfavorable geopolitical factors, New York can't afford to come up short on the technical side in its bid for the 2012 Olympics.
So, after ranking only fourth in an International Olympic Committee evaluation of the candidate cities, New York is moving quickly to address the weaknesses in its blueprint for hosting the world's biggest sports festival.
"We're taking a look at every single comment and taking them to heart," said Daniel Doctoroff, the deputy mayor for economic development who leads the Olympic bid. "In every case we will seek to improve the plans."
New York cleared the first hurdle last month when it joined four European capitals -- Paris, London, Madrid and Moscow -- as finalists in the 2012 race. Four cities -- Istanbul, Rio de Janeiro, and Havana and Leipzig, Germany -- missed the cut.
But New York rated behind Paris, Madrid and London in an IOC report assessing 11 technical criteria, including infrastructure, sports venues, transportation, accommodation and security.
The report also cited concerns about New York's transport plans, venue projects and Olympic village concept.
Since then, New York has announced new plans for the athletes' village that appear to meet the IOC's needs. More upgrades are planned as New York seeks to boost its chances of winning the July 6, 2005, vote in Singapore.
"This is the first of what I expect will be many examples where we demonstrate that we're listening," Doctoroff told the Associated Press. "We really view that report as a roadmap for us to provide the IOC with a spectacular games."
Politics and geography, however, are out of New York's control. At play is anti-American sentiment, stemming in particular from President Bush's policies. And, with the 2010 Winter Games being held in Vancouver, the IOC may be reluctant to go back to North America two years later.
In addition, there is substantial local opposition to the proposed $1.4 billion Olympic stadium on the West Side of Manhattan, which would also serve as a new home for the New York Jets.
Doctoroff prefers not to focus on the intangibles of the race.
"I think it's irrelevant at this point," he said. "The decision is made by 122 individuals who all have their own bases for making the decision."
Last week, New York selected the architectural firm Morphosis as the winner of a design study for the athletes' village, to be located in Queens, across the East River from the United Nations.
The proposed $1.5 billion complex would house 16,000 athletes, coaches and officials on a 52-acre site along the waterfront.
The design answers the IOC criticisms of the preliminary village plans: It reduces the number of high-rise units from 10 to four and encompasses a full array of training facilities inside the complex, including an Olympic-size track, tennis courts and multipurpose fields.
Robert Fasulo, director of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations and one of the 15 members on the IOC panel which produced the report, welcomed the improvements.
"Those are the kinds of concerns that were raised in our discussion," he said. "If they're able to proactively address those, that can only work to their benefit."
Doctoroff said New York will soon be announcing enhancements to its transport plans after the IOC expressed reservations about rail and ferry services for the athletes. He said there also will be some small changes in the location of sports venues.
"Some of what we're doing is different than what historically has been done and requires greater explanation and greater convincing," Doctoroff said. "Even given that, we're going to be responsive to the concerns and questions that were raised."
He said officials will launch a "major promotional effort" in New York at the end of the month, including a high-profile ad campaign and revamped Web site. New York registered fourth in the IOC report with 68 percent of public support.
Doctoroff said New York has plenty of time to get its message across.
He cited the case of Vancouver, which wasn't the highest-rated city at this stage but ended up winning the 2010 Winter Olympics, and of Athens and Beijing, which were awarded the 2004 and 2008 Summer Games despite not having the top technical bids.
"But our goal is to have the highest-rated plan," Doctoroff said. "At the same time, we also recognize there are many other factors to play a role in the decision."
Males in their 30s living in the greater Athens area.
That's the average profile of volunteers for the Aug. 13-29 Olympics, according to organizers.
Of the 160,000 possible volunteers, 55 percent are men, and 45 percent are women. The overwhelming majority, 78 percent, are under age 34.
According to a study carried out on behalf of Athens 2004, eight in 10 volunteers are concerned about the organization of the Olympics.
One-third declared that the delayed preparations of the games concerns them now more than they did when they applied to be a volunteer. More than half (55 percent) are still enthusiastic that the games will be a success.
A large number (76.1 percent) said they would continue volunteer work after the games.
Song for Charity
First there was "Pass Flame," the song to accompany the Olympic flame on its trek around the world.
Now there is the song to promote the Olympic Truce, the pet project of George Papandreou, leader of the Socialist party ousted from office in March elections.
The brainchild of Greek composer-singer Costas Ganotis, "On your Marks, Cease Fire," will be performed by two popular Greek singers and a children's choir. The lyrics are based on the opening of Takis Papatsonis' poem, "Ode to Aquarius." Proceeds from the CD sales will go to charity.
"What led me to the creation of this piece was not only war, the kind we see every day, but also the other one, the hidden one, the inner war between wisdom and foolishness," Ganotis said.