Trust and passion were twin elements cited on Thursday by the head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) evaluation commission at the end of their intense, four-day inspection of New York's bid to host the 2012 Games.
"We felt the enthusiasm, we felt the warmth and we felt the strong support for this bid everywhere we went," commission chairwoman Nawal El Moutawakel told a news conference.
"I think we felt there is a passion and love for sport and we thank the people of New York for that."
New York is competing against London, Madrid, Moscow and Paris to host the 2012 Games.
The 13-member commission arrived here on Sunday direct from their London visit. The panel, which has already evaluated Madrid's bid, travel to Paris and Moscow next month.
A report examining technical details of each bid and a risk analysis of the plans will be issued by the commission one month before IOC members decide the host city by a vote in Singapore on July 6.
The biggest risk factor in New York's bid seems to centre on plans to build a $1.4 billion Olympic Stadium on the West Side of Manhattan that would later be used by the National Football League's New York Jets.
Political wrangling and new bids to buy the property for other uses have cast doubts locally about the stadium deal.
El Moutawakel said assurances by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Gov. George Pataki and other officials had won her trust.
"They gave us all assurances," the Moroccan gold-medal hurdler at the 1984 Los Angeles Games said as she looked down at the mayor sitting in the first row.
"He's a winner and his team is a winning team, so we trust that between now and the end of March or July this project will hopefully come to an end."
But El Moutawakel stressed it is a crucial issue.
"We will follow [developments] closely so we can deliver an honest report to IOC members," she added.
The New York bid organisation offered no back-up plan for the stadium that would hold opening and closing ceremonies and track and field competition.
Bloomberg said he is confident of agreeing the stadium deal but stopped short of making a guarantee.
"I think we will get it done," he said. "I think the stadium is the right thing for New York City before you even consider the Olympics. It is the catalyst we need to develop the whole West Side."
El Moutawakel said she also trusted a video message from US President George W Bush expressing support for New York's bid and promising government help in providing security.
"Security is at the top of the agenda for the IOC," said El Moutawakel, who added that New York, one of the targets of the September 11, 2001 attacks, was not singled out in that regard and that the other bid cities had also experienced terrorist attacks.
NO ONE SAFE
"Nowadays no one is safe from this and we have to be very vigilant about this."
Commission members spent two days pouring over the city's plans and grilling officials. They also visited 18 sites and venues.
El Moutawakel said commission members were impressed by the existing infrastructure, citing Madison Square Garden, where basketball would be played, and the National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows, home of the US Open.
In line with IOC rules following the scandal over favours granted in Salt Lake City's winning bid to host the 2002 Winter Games, only one "social event" was planned.
The bid committee took advantage by treating the visitors to Big Apple glamour on Wednesday, with a private performance at the Jazz at Lincoln Center featuring Wynton Marsalis, a group of Broadway singers and dancers and comedienne Whoopi Goldberg, who said the city fitted the international image of the Olympics.
"We have Asian people making pizza, we have Italian people serving soul food," Goldberg said. "You are not going to see that any place else."
The show ended with fireworks over the entrance to Central Park and dinner at the billionaire Mayor's posh townhouse with Goldberg, actors Meryl Streep and Matt Damon and statesman Henry Kissinger among those in attendance who were serenaded later by Paul Simon.