New York, NY (February 21, 2005) – NYC2012, the committee leading New York’s bid to host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012, today announced that its Circle of Olympians and Paralympians has surpassed 1,800 members.

The committee believes this to be the greatest number of Olympians to ever support an Olympic bid.

The newest additions to the Circle include the legendary Muhammad Ali (Boxing: 1960 Gold) and the great Earvin “Magic” Johnson (Basketball: 1992 Gold).

When asked about his reasoning for supporting the bid, Ali said, “When I look back and remember my greatest, most exciting moments as a boxer, competing in New York and competing in the Olympics are at the top of that list. To bring them together and hold the Games in New York City would be unforgettable for everyone involved, including myself.”

Johnson added: “I always enjoyed competing in front of a New York crowd. They are among the most knowledgeable and passionate fans in the world. I love L.A., but there’s always been something special about New York – it is our biggest stage. My participation in the 1992 Olympic Games was among my career highlights and the Games in New York will surely be a shining moment for the world’s best athletes.”

Joining Ali and Johnson are Kenyan Bernard Lagat (Athletics: 2000 Bronze, 2004 Silver), Dorothy Hamill (Figure Skating: 1976 Gold) and Paralympian Erin Popovich (Swimming: 2000 3 Gold, 3 Silver, 2004 7 Gold). Also joining the Circle are Amanda Beard (Swimming: 1996 Gold, 2 Silver, 2000 Bronze, 2004 Gold, 2 Silver) and Alan Webb (Athletics: 2004).

The more than 1,800 members represent 52 different countries and all 50 states in the U.S. Circle members demonstrate their support for an Olympic and Paralympic Games in New York City by getting actively involved in New York’s bid and having a prominent voice in all aspects of the plan.

Daniel L. Doctoroff, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding and NYC2012 Founder said, “Our Circle of Olympians and Paralympians’ continual growth and range of athletes is a testament to a New York Games. The diversity, unity, and passion of this group of athletes represented in the NYC2012 bid truly reflect the ideals of New York City itself and their participation in the bid is indispensable.”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission is in town to evaluate the New York City bid. Members of the Circle will help NYC2012 in its efforts to showcase the Olympic and Paralympic plan. Members have previously helped out in many other areas of the bid, from visiting schools to spreading Olympic ideals and values at NYC2012 events.

Donna de Varona (Swimming: 1960, 1964 2 Gold), Senior Advisor for Sports for NYC2012 commented on the importance of these athletes’ support and participation, “When it comes to competing at the highest level, few people know more than Muhammad Ali. We are thrilled to have him join the Circle as his perspective and support will be invaluable moving forward. Bringing the Games to New York City would offer athletes an exciting, supportive atmosphere as fans, from nations across the world, cheer on their favorite competitors. There is nothing like performing in a place where the fans’ genuine excitement and encouragement help bring out the best you have to offer against the best competition in the world.”

Just a week ago, new Circle member, Lagat, broke the record for the Wanamaker mile, the premiere event at the Millrose Games in New York City. He ran with friend and competitor, Alan Webb, who has joined Lagat in the Circle of Olympians.

Lagat was drawn into the New York City aura, especially after a bombardment of cheering and encouragement as he approached the last legs of his record time at the Millrose Games: “New York fans are great. Those are the guys that helped me tonight. And they have a lot of knowledge…what could be better than the Olympics in New York City?” Webb agreed with Lagat’s sentiment saying, “New York is a perfect combination of all types of people. There will be every nationality and ethnicity…they have the infrastructure to get it organized.”

“New York City residents are themselves tireless competitors, ready and willing to support those whose perseverance and hard work got them where they are today, and whose competitiveness mirrors their own,” added Doctoroff.

New York is competing against four other cities for the right to host the Olympic Games in 2012: London, Madrid, Moscow and Paris. The International Olympic Committee will name the Host City for the 2012 Games on July 6, 2005.

For a detailed list of NYC2012’s Circle of Olympians and Paralympians, go to http://www.nyc2012.com/en/team_circle_of_olympians.html.