New York's bid to host the 2012 Olympics has suffered an 11th-hour blow after plans to build a showpiece stadium were thrown into disarray less than a week before the International Olympic Committee's evaluation team visits the city.
Long-standing plans to offer exclusive rights to build the West Side Stadium, which would serve as the key Olympic venue, to the New York Jets football franchise were undermined after the Manhattan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced that it would open up the rights to the highest bidder.
The authority had originally been seeking $300m (£158m) for the 13-acre site. The Jets were offering only $100m. But now that the tender has been opened up the Jets will almost certainly either have to up their offer considerably or to bow out. Only recently Cablevision, the parent company of Madison Square Garden (MSG), offered $600m for the site.
The MTA chairman, Peter Kalikow, said he was seeking "best and final offers" by March 21. "If other developers are interested in bidding, they too must comply" with ground rules. The MTA will consider all offers at a meeting on March 31.
The proposed stadium has courted controversy, with some in the city opposing the exclusive Jets deal and claiming the money would better be spent on schools. Others insist that hosting the games would bring money and prestige.
In an election year for the mayoralty the stadium looks like being a thorny issue. The administration of the mayor Michael Bloomberg had helped to broker the Jets deal and has thrown its weight behind the Olympic bid.
Political opponents said the decision was a victory for New York's travelling public since it would most likely mean more money for transport bodies.