Drones, Dogs and Destiny
by Ed Griffin-Nolan - Wednesday, February 19th, 2014
The pieces fit together like an Olympic jigsaw puzzle

The sheer genius of it all. How could we have missed it?

It now appears that what’s been going on in the ’Cuse this past month is nothing less than Cuomo-Mahoney-Congel plan to bring the Winter Olympics to Syracuse.

Brilliant. Think about it.

First the governor rolls into town with a plan for a stadium that we don’t need and didn’t ask for. The mayor acts stunned for a moment, then appoints a task force of notables to study the issue. That task force, it appears, is the de facto committee to bring the Olympics to Syracuse.

Think about it.

As soon as the task force is formed, the County Legislature agrees to pony up $1.1 million to purchase the Hotel Syracuse. Before the ink on that check has time to dry, mall developer Bob Congel comes up with a plan for a hotel at Destiny USA, one that will include a request for a tax break. The always cagey Congel disguises his hotel, which has no name, affiliation, or visible design plans, as a plan to lure Canadian shoppers, but we know better.

Clearly our leaders have been paying attention to the whining journalists at Sochi complaining about the nasty conditions in their hotels. Presto: We’ve got the hotels. We’ve got the stadium. What else do we need?

Well, there is the problem of those stray dogs. Animal lovers around the globe have been horrified to learn that the Russians have hired hunters to apprehend and eliminate the unattended canines that seem to be found everywhere in Sochi. An Olympic venue cannot have unescorted mutts meandering in and out; nor can organizers afford to risk the wrath of puppy lovers everywhere by euthanizing the homeless hounds. As anyone who watched this year’s Super Bowl commercials can attest, puppies are more popular than sex. That’s quite a following.

Ever the forward thinker, Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney asks the legislature to drop $350,000 to build a kennel at Jamesville Penitentiary. The kennel will give the inmates some therapeutic contact with puppies that would otherwise be put to death, and it will give the dogs some contact with convicts. Reliable reports indicate that Syracuse sends strays to doggie heaven at a rate considerably higher than our upstate neighbors, which is not only sad but puts us at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to pleasing the International Olympic Committee’s Site Selection Committee.

The days when one could procure an Olympic nod with a few well-placed bribes are long gone. As recently as 2002, the IOC awarded the Winter Olympics to a Salt Lake City committee led by a man known to strap his pooch to the roof of his station wagon while taking his family on vacation. Post-Sochi, however, Olympic venues will need to show that they know how to treat their dogs. And what better way to show that we love our stray dogs than to send them to prison? The legislature, exercising its due diligence, cut $100,000 (barely enough to pay the overtime for two sheriff’s deputies) from Mahoney’s request and approved the puppy hotel behind bars.

There was still one angle to cover: What to do with the protesters? No Olympic fan wants to turn on the TV expecting to watch Shaun White dazzle on the half pipe and instead have to look at a bunch of aging radicals waving posters of dead Pakistani children. It’s just not in the Olympic spirit.

Conveniently, town of DeWitt Justice David Gideon demonstrated the resolve of the Syracuse community to lower the boom on dissent. Gideon sentenced 12 dangerous peace activists to 15 days at Jamesville Penitentiary for their disorderly conduct. Echoing the frustrations voiced by Russian President Vladimir Putin about his Pussy Riot problem, Gideon told those assembled in court, “At some point, this has to stop.” Without even cracking a smile, the judge also gave the military base an order of protection against the unarmed activists.

So whenever the Olympics come to the Salt City, we can pop Ed Kinane into the poky, where presumably he can walk an abandoned pit bull who will talk some sense into him. Let the Games begin!

For more like ‘Drones, Dogs and Destiny’ – Read Ed Griffin-Nolan’s award-winning commentary: SANITY FAIRHERE