President George W. Bush ’68 named his Yale classmate and close friend Roland Betts ’68, the senior fellow of the Yale Corporation, to the board of directors of the New York Committee for the 2012 Olympic Games on Thursday.
Betts, a prominent New York developer, will serve on the board if the city is chosen to host the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. The International Olympic Committee will select the host city at a vote on July 6 in Singapore from a pool of five finalists: Paris, London, Madrid, Moscow and New York.
A former member of the U.S. Olympic Committee, Betts has maintained a long-standing presence in U.S. Olympic affairs. He has been involved with planning New York’s 2012 Olympic bid since the campaign began in 1995. He said his new appointment will allow him to continue his longtime involvement with trying to bring the Olympics to his hometown.
“It’s going to be intensively competitive, but we have a good bid in,” Betts said in a telephone interview Thursday night. “I’ve been involved with the Olympics for a long time and I love it.”
Betts’ associates at Yale praised his appointment. Yale President Richard Levin said he thinks Betts’ background will be an asset to the committee.
“He has been a longtime champion to bring the Olympics to New York City,” Levin said.
Yale architecture professor Alexander Garvin, a leading developer who serves on the New York City Planning Commission and is a former development director for New York’s Olympic bid, said he thinks Betts will bring sound experience to his new position.
“Roland Betts, who I admire greatly, is one of the most knowledgeable people one can find about Olympics in the United States,” Garvin said.
Betts and Bush have been close friends since their undergraduate years at Yale in the late 1960s, when they were brothers in the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity. A Democrat, Betts is one of Bush’s closest confidants and sat with the Bush family at last month’s presidential inauguration. He is a frequent visitor to the White House, Camp David, and Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas.
Bush and Betts were members of the ownership team for the Texas Rangers from 1989 to 1998, and Bush appointed Betts last December as an informal advisor to Major League Baseball officials who are trying to reform the game’s steroid-use policies.
In an October television interview on PBS’ “Charlie Rose Show,” Levin said Betts was instrumental in reinvigorating Yale’s relationship with Bush, who, before his address at the University’s 2001 commencement, had not visited campus since his graduation in 1968.
Betts has been involved in numerous community and development activities during his post-Yale years. Soon after graduation, he taught public school in Harlem for 10 years before moving on to Columbia Law School. He is currently chairman and chief executive officer of Chelsea Piers, L.P., which operates the Chelsea Piers Sports and Entertainment Complex in Manhattan. Betts is also a director of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which is responsible for rebuilding the World Trade Center site.