There are many reasons to oppose Boston’s Olympics bid. But here are 24 to start.
(1) Fool Me Once: The Boston 2024 Olympics bid has been developed behind closed doors by an unelected group of CEOs and corporate lobbyists. Despite its stated commitment to transparency and economic inclusiveness, Boston 2024 did not find the time to host a single public meeting while preparing its bid for submission to the USOC. If they have flagrantly violated their own promises already, do they really deserve a second chance?
(2) Sliding Down a Slippery Slope: Mayor Marty Walsh has expressed his adamant opposition to a referendum on the issue of hosting the Olympics or using public funds for it, arguing that his election is sufficient for a democratic stamp of approval. He has also signed a document barring city employees from criticizing the Olympics, the USOC, or the IOC and requiring them to actively promote it. Boston 2024 has no intentions of releasing the full bid it submitted to the USOC, and Walsh has ignored public records requests about the bid. Such anti-democratic decision-making sets a dangerous precedent.
(3) Rotten to the Core: If you are worried that the corporate lobbyists and CEOs of Boston 2024 don’t have your best interests at heart, wait until you meet the members of the International Olympics Committee (IOC), an institution whose members and practices are notoriously corrupt.
(4) Not Keeping It Common: Boston 2024 is planning to build a “temporary” beach volleyball stadium in Boston Common and hosting the pentathlon and equestrian competitions in Franklin Park. However, our parks are our premier public spaces, places where citizens from all backgrounds and of any means can convene freely. Committing them to a closed, private, multi-week spectacle undermines the ethos behind them.
(5) Overrun This Town (and State): Miss the Big Dig? Over the past fifty years, the Olympic Games have produced an average cost overrun of 179 percent in real terms. Although Boston 2024 has promised that no public funds will be used for the games, Massachusetts has to promise the IOC that it will cover all necessary costs. And history has shown that such “no public funds” promises are as easily broken as they are made.
(6) Bleeding the Budget: Money spent on the Olympics will be money not spent on more pressing concerns like education, which is already underfunded. Massachusetts has cut per-student higher education spending by over one-third since the Great Recession, and Boston’s public schools face another round of cuts. Having to make budgetary space for the Games increases the risk of even deeper cuts.
(7) You Can’t Eat a Stadium: According to a recent report by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, 21.2% of Bostonians live below the poverty line, and 36% of requests for food assistance go unmet. Why should we be diverting money and resources to the Olympics when the basic needs of the people of our city are going unmet?
(8) Build up for What? Some people have described the Olympic bid as an opportunity to get politicians to commit to the investments in infrastructure and transportation that are so desperately needed. However, we should be developing our transportation plans with the interests of all members of our Commonwealth in mind, not a three-week spectacle almost a decade into the future.
(9) Un-Common Wealth: Economists studying the games have argued that the benefits are overstated and that, in fact, there is little to no impact on economic activity. In fact, a recent study by Merrill Lynch found that 10 out of the last 11 host cities experienced lingering financial stress due to the Olympics. The developers who receive large contracts for the Olympics may make a pretty penny, but those benefits are unlikely to spill over to the rest of us, especially those most in need.
(10) Not Lovin’ It: Proponents of the Olympics often argue that the Olympics will be a boon for local businesses, but the IOC has corporate sponsors with pre-existing contracts for various services related to the Games. Your local caterer won’t be the one benefiting from the Games; instead, it’ll be McDonald’s, the IOC’s exclusive partner for retail food services. And local stores and restaurants may suffer as Bostonians avoid them because of fears of overcrowding.
(11) A Tourist’s Detour: The occupancy rate for hotels in Boston for the month of August is over 90%. Filling these hotels with Olympic visitors will thus only push out other potential tourists, leaving little in the way of net gain in tourism. Building more hotels would likely lead to displacement and divert land and resources away from providing the affordable housing the city desperately needs.
(12) Not All Tourists are Created Equal: When tourists come to Boston for the Olympics, they will be coming to see short-lived sporting events, not lasting treasures like the Freedom Trail or the city’s 58 National Historic Landmarks. What makes a “world-class” city: our culture and history—or an aquatics center and velodrome?
(13) Too Close for Comfort: The IOC demands 45,000 hotel rooms, housing for 16,500 athletes, and workspace for 15,000 journalists. The IOC also demands its own special traffic lanes. If you think that the T is crowded or traffic is bad now in our dense and compact city, wait until summer 2024.
(14) You Can’t Live in a Velodrome: The displacement of low-income communities is part and parcel of the Olympics, as public housing tenants and renters get evicted to make way for Olympic venues. The homeless population is rising faster in Massachusetts than in any other state. We need to be focused on developing solutions, not making the problem even worse.
(15) No More Place Like Home: Evictions are not the only way that the Olympics threatens low-income communities. As developers salivate at the prospect of the Games and plan new luxury condominiums, rents skyrocket in the areas around Olympic venues, pricing people out of their own neighborhoods. Boston is already the fifth least affordable rental market in the country. We shouldn’t try to go for the gold.
(16) Spying Eyes: The Olympics have historically served as a testing ground for new intrusive surveillance technologies. The Games may only last for a few weeks, but these new tools and techniques will be an enduring legacy, further eroding citizens’ privacy and enabling the government to crush dissent.
(17) Meet Your New Neighbors: The Olympic Games come with a heavily militarized security presence. According to security specialists who have worked on past games, some of Boston’s neighborhoods will likely be turned into “something approaching armed camps,” given the number of security personnel and weapons present. Boston should be putting solar panels on roofs, not missiles.
(18) Rights at the Door: The 2024 Olympics will likely be deemed a “National Security Special Event” (NSSE), falling under the aegis of the US Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security, and Federal Bureau of Investigation. With such a designation often comes an abrogation of constitutional rights, such as the right to protest on public land and the right not to be searched or questioned without reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.
(19) Saddling Students, Not Just Horses: Boston 2024 is planning to rely on the area’s colleges and universities to cut down its own costs, but those costs will just end up offloaded onto the students. Tuition at our public colleges and universities has risen 20% since the onset of the Great Recession and ranks in the top 10 in the country. Tuition at private universities is even higher. “Carrying student debt burden” is not an Olympic game we should want to add.
(20) Not Easy (or Possible) Being Green: Promises of “greening” the Olympics routinely go unfulfilled, and it’s not difficult to see why. Olympic venues, both in construction and operation, suck up significant amounts of energy and water, and the necessary transport services further drive up emissions. The games can be “less unsustainable,” but a sustainable Olympics is an oxymoron.
(21) Temporary Stadium, Permanent Damage: Boston 2024 is considering constructing a “temporary stadium” in Widett Circle in South Boston. Widett Circle is not empty. It is home to New Boston Food Market, which employs 700 workers. The appropriation of this land via eminent domain would threaten these jobs and pave the way for a post-Games land grab by big developers who have been eying it for decades.
(22) White Elephants on Parade: The IOC requires host cities to provide—that is, construct—a stadium, a velodrome, and an aquatics center. But what happens when the three weeks of the Olympics are over? These venues are left to decay in disuse and disrepair, costing money and preventing land from being used for more socially beneficial purposes.
(23) Not Your Party: Tickets for Olympic events are notoriously expensive to buy and difficult to acquire. That’s because, although the Games may be in Boston, they’re not for Boston. The corporate sponsors and other elites will be the ones with front-row seats while you’re stuck watching from home.
(24) Eyes off the Prize: One of the biggest damages that the Boston 2024 bid will do–whether the city wins or not—is divert our attention from many of the pressing challenges that we face as both a city and a state. The planning that goes into the bid will take up time, money, and resources, and that will come at the expense of other issues we need to address: the dearth of affordable housing, the acceleration of climate change, the rise of health care costs, the plague of mass incarceration, insufficient funding and inequitable funding for education and infrastructure, among many others.