Somehow Boston edged our the U.S. competition to become the USOC pick. Now of course, it will go up against numerous cities around the world for the same prize. Or is it a prize after all and not a curse?
Last week I sat in for the unabashed boosters who proclaim the (to them) certain glories of hosting an Olympics games. While clearly skeptical, I tried to put their position forward, the likes of thousands of jobs, huge advances in infrastructure and housing, tens of thousands of new jobs, and all financed privately with no tax dollars. There is another view.
Today Aaron Leibowitz represented No Boston Olympics with that view. It centers from every angle with we don’t know.
Click below to hear 24 minutes with Leibowitz on the Olympics bid and process.
NoBostonOlympics leads the public opposition. It starts with the secrecy and obfuscation. Leibowitz notes that the bidding process to this point lunged and plunged ahead in camera. Under the umbrella of Boston 2024, the boosters have gone from we’ll tell and show you nothing, to we won the bid for the U.S., to we’ll surely be transparent…eventually, to we’ll show reporters our bid but they can’t have copies, to we’ll have public meetings around town. Those meetings do have a schedule, which is here, starting next week and then one monthly through September.
I’m not sure Boston Mayor Marty Walsh reads the dictionary the same way as most of us. He has claimed repeatedly that this drive to host the games will be entirely transparent and open. So far that has not at all been the case. Whether opening up the bid and books and process to hoi polloi will turn us too into boosters will only be seen if that happens.
Meanwhile, WBUR stepped in with its own poll of citizens. A bare majority was in favor of having the games here, a third were opposed, but most tellingly, three quarters wanted a public vote, like a referendum, on the matter. Leibowitz noted that in cities seeking games, 70 to 90% of the public normally supported the bid.
NoBostonOlympics cites the invariable massive cost overruns in Olympics going back 60 years or more. Many have pointed to white-elephant stadia and other facilities after what Leibowitz called “a three-week party.” Moreover, Olympics history shows that a lot of public money, paid by taxes, will be required; the Boston 2024 folk and Mayor Walsh swear that we are different and this Olympics would be privately financed.
Leibowitz and I kicked around the billions of preparatory infrastructure improvements. That is a fascinating sales point for pro and con sides. The pro-Olympics folk hold that having to plan and prepare for games would force the Boston area to invest in roads, bridges, housing, mass transit and other permanent public goods. The con folk make it plain that if we need these, we should simply do them without the huge added costs associated with the Olympics.
There are those arguing that we are so clever here that we can show the IOC and the whole world the right way to host games physically and financially. Leibowitz counters that much of the process and costs are out of the host city’s control and responsive to IOC requirements. Those who believe that we in Boston and Massachusetts can avoid the pits into which the other host cities have fallen are simply “naive,” he says.
NoBostonOlympics is also hosting public meetings, with notifications on the mailing list, main site, and Facebook page. At the least, they want that promised transparency. They think a public vote, maybe a ballot referendum next year would make sense. They are also lobbying legislators and city councilors.
Leibowitz said they were getting some good responses already. However, he cited a quote in a Boston Magazine article that so far pols are afraid to be openly anti or even questioning of the Olympics. Until the public is also expressing skepticism, being anti-Olympics may be seen as “unpatriotic.”