Thanks for the write-up, Ryan, and comment sabutai. It was a long, substantive, forthright conversation and Ryan described a lot of the gist of the challenges that confront Boston 2024 right on the mark, I'd say. - promoted by Bob_Neer
Bob, Sabutai, Hysterprynne and I sat down with Mayor Walsh and his Chief of Policy/fellow BMGer, Joyce Linehan, today.
It was actually pretty great timing for me. I had been working on a post about the Olympics a couple weeks ago, just before I was told about the meeting, and it just so happened to be on what it would take for Boston 2024 to have any hopes of getting the 50%+1 of the voting population it needs to catch Olympic fever.
I thought it was a tall order then and, in truth, I still think it is now, but I feel pretty reassured about my original points — to the point where I can see a path, even if it’s a narrow one. I think Mayor Walsh gets most of them, even if Boston 2024 still has plenty of room to improve.
So, if Boston 2024 wants to have any chance of a Bean Town Olympics going forward, here’s a list of some of the things it should strongly consider.
1. Be competent. Unlike the Chicagos and Detroits of the world, Boston has by and large been an extremely well managed city — so that’s the good news. We’re a city that cares about creating jobs and maintaining our AAA bond rating — and because we’ve had our share of steady hands and forward-thinking individuals (including many on the 5th Floor of Government Center), we’ve neither been afraid to reinvent ourselves nor lacked the resources to do it.
That’s the reason why Boston has been able to pivot along with the economy, and that’s the reason — the only reason — why we’re even in the conversation for having the Olympics today.
I say all this because while I think Boston 2024 has stumbled out of the gates — to put it mildly — the city is competent, so there’s hope… depending on who really runs this thing.
If Boston 2024, the USOC and the IOC is running the show, I’m going to have my worries. But, if the city of Boston takes charge, tells the IOC that this is going to be run the way we like it or not at all — and sticks to our guns — then it is possible, however unlikely, that a sensible Olympics could actually happen. I mean, we’re talking about hitting bullseye shooting at womprats on our T-16s here, but it could be done.
2. We have to make this bid about being different. Like, that should be the whole freaking theme of the bid. It should be our entire messaging — both to the IOC and the public.
We have a pretty good history with that, from reinventing our economy to that whole starting-the-American-Revolution thing to turning the Back Bay into a land mass and carving tunnels so we could have parks and see the sky — so let’s be different now.
What this really means is we need to send the IOC a final bid that challenges all the Olympic Conventions of the past 15-20 years, of overspending, massive corruption, gross incompetence and excessive parties for the .01%, along with all the huge cost overruns that come with that.
We need to send the IOC a bid that we’re entirely happy with — and let the IOC know that if it continues down their dangerous path of awarding those who finish first in a race to the bottom, they’re going to have no where else to go but dictatorships and hack governments to host in the near future. That’s a path paved with a few glimmering games toward the slow march of death of the modern Olympic movement.
Our bid needs to loudly, clearly say that to the IOC — rebuking its past practices — and send a message that the games should be about the Olympic spirit and not who can build the most ostentatious pool.
That may mean we won’t win the Olympic bid in the end, but if that’s the case, oh well.
3. We have to make the bid process inclusive. If there’s a sense that the elites of the elites have been in control of this thing every step of the way, and haven’t deigned it worth their time to consult us plebes on any of the decisions, that’s because it’s true — and whatever efforts are underway to change that aren’t working.
If Boston is going to host the Olympics, Boston has to host the Olympics. Not Suffolk Construction, Harvard University or the State Street Bank.
It’s time to have fewer CEOs and VPs on the bid committee and a lot more representatives from neighborhood organizations, with deep Boston roots and who care about what happens before, during and after any Boston Olympics. We should not only allow concerned citizens to ask questions at forums, but invite many of them into the planning committees for everything from venues to security to transportation.
Small businesses need to be reassured that they won’t be locked out of their own city for the length of the Olympics or worried that they’ll be sued if they sell Olympic-themed cookies at their bakery.
Invest neighborhood groups, concerned citizens and small businesses in the process, let them use their on-the-ground expertise and understanding of the city to help make this a better bid, one that benefits all, and then they’ll have something to care about, because this will be their games and not John Fish’s.
4. Lots of officials are saying this won’t cost anything like Sochi or Beijing or even London, so let’s put that in writing. There’s been plenty of talk about taking out an insurance policy to cover us for any cost overruns, but I’m having a hard time seeing any insurance company want to take that bet when even London’s costs spiraled by a factor of 2-3.
We, the People, are not going to pay billions of dollars for this game, period. How we put that in writing doesn’t much matter, as long as its ironclad and protects us in the here and now, as well as future generations of Bostonians and Bay Staters to come.
If those four things happen, there’s an actual chance that the public could be convinced, and that Boston could throw a nice party at a reasonable cost.
But it’s going to be a long, difficult road to get there. I have my doubts, but I’m willing to be proved wrong.