It’s not dead yet … but the events of the last week have been unquestionably terrible for those seeking to bring the 2024 summer Olympics to Boston. Consider the following:
- As you probably know, and as Bob has already noted, Boston 2024 head honcho John Fish made an ass of himself yesterday by proclaiming, in the most absurdly solemn tones, that he’s very, very concerned about the decline of pride, patriotism and love of country that he is seeing because … why, because some people don’t want Boston to host the Olympics? Here are his comments, via WCVB, in case you missed them:
What an idiotic and frankly offensive suggestion. The last refuge of someone who is about to lose an argument is often that anyone who disagrees with him must be a scoundrel who hates America. That appears to be where Fish has gone.
- In a related story – but one that emerged even before Fish’s ridiculous comments from yesterday – neither Shirley Leung (who kinda likes the idea of the Olympics) nor Joan Vennochi (who kinda doesn’t) thinks Fish has what it takes to serve as Boston 2024’s chief spokesman. And Boston Mayor Marty Walsh was forced to “clarify” comments he made yesterday, insisting that he hadn’t gone so far as actually to call for Fish to step down. But Fish has clearly lost the confidence of media figures and elected officials. He keeps saying that if people don’t think he’s the right guy to move the bid forward, he’ll step aside. Well, John, that time may have come.
- Rumors were swirling over the last couple of days that the U.S. Olympic Committee is sufficiently spooked by Boston 2024’s collapsing poll numbers that they were considering dropping Boston’s bid, in favor either of another US city or of sitting out 2024 all together. The requisite denials were issued, but the Wall Street Journal doesn’t publish reports like that based on nothing, so someone close to the USOC is certainly worried.
- And in a potentially quite important development, Mayor Walsh told the Dorchester Reporter today that some of the infrastructure improvements that would be needed to host the Olympics, such as upgrading the JFK/UMass Red Line station and fixing Kosciuszko circle, are not currently included in the state’s plans and would require additional public funds. This, I think, sets the whole thing into stark relief. Because while I have no problem saying that it would be nice to upgrade the JFK/UMass station, is that really what should be at the top of the MBTA’s to-do list? Self-evidently, I’d say, the answer is no. What the T needs is motors that don’t short out when they come into contact with snow, subway cars that are not 30 years old, actual snow plows, de-icing fluid that doesn’t corrode the rails, a 21st century signal system, switches that don’t freeze when it gets cold or melt when it gets hot, and so on. You know, stuff that actually makes the system function. And, yes, the T needs to be expanded. The Olympics will indeed force a conversation about certain transportation upgrades, but the conversation will be distorted by the needs of the Olympics, not the needs of the city, so that upgrading JFK/UMass will be more important than preventing another transit catastrophe the next time we have a tough winter.
For the Olympic bid to have any hope, it seems pretty evident that John Fish should step down. At this point, every story is about the latest silly thing he said or bad move that he made. The bid will without question fail unless that changes, and the available evidence indicates that, as accomplished a guy as he is, a politician he ain’t, and someone with political skills is needed in that job.
Beyond that, is there any hope? Should there be? Here is an interesting take from an outside observer who isn’t from Boston, but who writes a lot about the Olympics:
All along, the Boston bid’s message has been diametrically opposite from what it should be.
It is: bring the Games to Boston so we can improve Boston.
It should be: let us in Boston show how via the Games we can make the world better.
This is fundamental bid messaging 101. Just incredible that it’s so backward.
I do agree with this guy that the effort to sell the Olympics to Boston as the best way to plan for Boston’s future was always doomed to failure, for the reason I gave above regarding the JFK/UMass station: the Olympics have their own priorities, which sometimes will align with those of the city as a whole but probably more often won’t. I’m less convinced by his “should be” about Olympics messaging, since I’m not sure that would sell all that well … but what is the better alternative? Do you have one?
get underway. But at the risk of sounding unpatriotic, I don’t think Boston will actually need the Olympics. By that time, Brady and Belichick will have won their 12th Super Bowl championship (I’m making an allowance for one off-year in there), and the Red Sox, Bruins, and Celtics will each have won a few more championships as well.
The MBTA will have long ceased to function at all because Speaker DeLeo (he will have been installed for life as of 2018) would never approve the revenues needed to keep it running, even in the summer. But sports will be thriving in Boston as they always have (at least as far back as people can remember, which will be about 2001).
At that point, 99 percent of Bostonians (maybe even including John Fish) will probably agree that another city, which doesn’t have so many good sports teams, but does have a functioning infrastructure, should host the Olympics. We won’t need more sports in Boston at that point. There won’t be any room in the city for all the Lombardi trophies.
I would read it.
One in which the residents would not be so quick to kill off the proposal without any serious consideration of the possible benefits.
HR's Kevin says
What is there to “seriously consider”? They won’t even tell us the details.
So far we have been told that it will “enhance our international image”, but who really cares about that except rich jet setters? And does that even work? Does anyone here think better of Beijing or London since they hosted the Olympics? Perhaps some do, but it sure doesn’t make a difference to me?
We are also told that this will bring billions of dollars of economic impact and thousands of construction jobs. Well duh. If you spend billions of dollars, you damn well better get some impact. But you could spend billions of dollars on any large construction project and say the same thing. Instead of spending that money to build facilities that we don’t need and then tear them down, lets spend the money on fixing the T and our failing roads and bridges.
We are also told how the Olympics are going to fix up places like Franklin Park. Well, who do you think is going to pay for that? That will be the City of Boston, thank you very much. I would be perfectly happy if the city wants to fix up our parks, but we don’t need the Olympics for that.
The only real benefit the Olympics will bring are the Olympics themselves. Yes, it may be interesting for a couple of weeks, and even fun for those who are rich enough or have the time and interest to volunteer, but most of us won’t be able to afford to see anything in person and will end up watching on TV as other people use the parks that we are locked out of.
You mean by responding to calls from a poll and giving their opinion? Should they have all told the pollster to call back after they’d given the question more serious consideration?
“It might not be a complete disaster”
Honestly I have no idea why non-dictatorships want to host the games. Look at the 2022 Olympics, the only Democracy bidding, Norway, dropped out.
Everyone here has been trying to consider the benefits from the moment the USOC announced they’d chosen Boston. The problem has been that nothing we’ve seen indicates that there are likely to be any material benefits. Those suggested are generally intangible (a good advertisement! the world will see Boston is a first-class city!) or indirect (maybe we could use Olympic demands to force a fix for the T!).
If Boston 2024 had come through with a preliminary plan that allowed us to examine possible actual benefits, and to evaluate the so-far-unverifiable assertion that there wouldn’t be any public cost, it’s unlikely that we would all find ourselves in this situation. As it is, though? The public is being asked to make an unquantified investment, on extremely sketchy offering documents. Of course you’re seeing rejection. It’s the only serious response.
The bid committee has, to my knowledge, never once touted a ‘benefit’ other than ‘it would be a feather in our cap to host the Olympics.’ (I myself have touted such benefits, but that’s separate…) In point of fact, the bid committee has spent the bulk of their time, effort and monies combatting the pernicious notion that, lacking a material ‘benefit’, all must be hellfire and damnation: lack of tangible benefit must, the theme goes, mean active harm. That’s the fallacy upon which opposition to the Olympics sits.
This is why I side with the bid committee. They have neither exaggerated nor minimized the scope or the scale of the problems and have tried, with mixed results, to address them. Whereas opponents of the Olympics have simply cried “NO”, sometimes viciously. When their tantrums aren’t taken seriously they take to predictions of gloom and doom and all manner of skullduggery that has yet to materialize: They fear the “IOC, destroyer of worlds” And, so, they conjure images of a city under siege or a blasted hellscape or red herrings of funding malfeasance, or… any number of other imagined horrors. Many have jumped upon the slightest excuse to criticize and, yet, remain silent when their criticisms have proven invalid… speaking up yet again when some other purported criticism emerges. To listen to some of the more strident opponents you’d think there should be a gaping crater where London once stood…
Or, put another way, what’s the ‘benefit’ of hosting the Boston Marathon? And why didn’t we address the general plebiscite with all the benefits listed so that they could decide?
Because we’re OK with it, that’s why.
Surely degrees of scale matter at least a little bit. A pin-prick is not the same as being impaled by a spear, a shaving cut is not the same as a machete attack.
The Boston Marathon does not shut down the entire Boston Metropolitan Area for weeks. It does not require billions of dollars in infrastructure development. The Boston Marathon does not require the taking of property by eminent domain, nor spread “temporary” stadia through an already densely-populated city and its neighbors.
In my view, there is nothing “pernicious” about demanding honesty and transparency about what is being proposed, who will benefit, and who will pay. What is objectionable, if not pernicious, is lying about those things while attacking the patriotism and sincerity of those who either oppose the proposal or were undecided.
HR's Kevin says
You may believe that Boston 2024 has been entirely above board and there is nothing materially wrong with the proposal, but there are too many people who see this differently. At this point I would guess that there are far more people who are strongly against this bid than are strongly for it. That is a huge problem for the bid.
You can complain all you like about how unfair that is, but until Boston 2024 takes seriously the myriad concerns of its opponents it is highly unlikely to turn the tide of public opinion in its favor. They cannot simply dismiss their critics as being “unpatriotic” or “not part of the community”. As long as they continue to do so, they will only increase the opposition and make it that much harder to change people’s minds.
HR's Kevin says
Unless he sells his company, moves from Boston and retires from public life, I don’t see how Boston 2024 can get away from the negative affects of Fish’s power, influence and potential for personal gain attached to this Olympic bid.
They should just pull the bid, and try again with new players in another ten years or so.
I doubt that there will even BE a 2024 Olympics.
It’s already a tawdry imitation of what it was a few decades ago. I suspect that “mainstream media”, by then, will look much more like today’s web and much less like today’s television.
I expect that by 2024, the audience interested in athletic, sporting, and gymnastic events will have 24×7 access to them through internet-based media (or through whatever comes after the internet), funded through some pay-as-you-go arrangement. I doubt that a counterpart to today’s advertiser-dominated syndicate will exist for events like this, because I think too many people despise the manipulation and content of advertisers.
Against that background, I think that there will be no audience for, and therefore no advertisers for, the synthetic garbage offered as “The Olympics” today. If the Olympic tradition continues, it will be as a low-key amateur event enjoyed by its fans, watched live on the web as it happens, and hosted in various locations — more like today’s “Head of the Charles”, and less like today’s “Olympics” or “Superbowl”.
the tawdry make-believe of amateur sports as represented by the modern “Olympic Games.”
HR's Kevin says
but I don’t think it makes sense to force cities to build large temporary facilities. The Olympics should only be held in cities that either already have appropriate facilities or that truly want to build them and maintain them for future use.
…is that the Boston bid specifically DOES want to handle the facilities issue differently from past cities.
HR's Kevin says
They claim they want to do things differently, but the still want to build expensive temporary facilities that will cost a lot of money to construct and a lot of money to remove. Perhaps we save a little money by planning for things to be temporary, but it is still a lot of money that doesn’t actually give you any lasting legacy.
HR's Kevin says
Just now in the car I was listening to WEEI and heard a lot of talk against this bid. When you cannot even win Boston sports radio over to the idea of the Olympics, then you have totally lost the PR war. I don’t see how they recover from this.
Everywhere I look, from media to the comment sections after articles to here, the voices against vastly, vastly outnumber those in support. I honestly don’t see a path to making this happen other than forcing it down our throats.
HR's Kevin says
A couple of nights ago I saw a news report on TV (don’t remember which station) where they interviewed people on the street in Boston. There were some people in favor of it but they said that most people they talked to were against it (they didn’t give numbers).
Polls do turn up some people who are in favor but I personally don’t know a single person who thinks this is a good idea.
If Boston 2024 wants to turn this around they have to radically change their approach and not just switch to another PR firm. For instance, perhaps they could totally open up what they have got and share with us all of their spreadsheets and internal documents. Perhaps they could promise to give ticket revenue directly to cities that will be assuming costs (of course that will screw up their already imaginary budget!). Perhaps they should move away from using land that is already being used for something else or that would be developed with or without the Olympics and switch to blighted or underused properties. Unless they can convince us that the Olympics is going to bring outside money into the region to pay for infrastructure improvements, I think this is not going to go anywhere.
EEI and the SportsHub always trash the Olympics when they come up, aside from the hockey final. The Olympics are filled with unusual sports about which they don’t have bullsh*t opinions or minimal knowledge. They don’t know the athletes’ backstories. Whole thing is a threat to people with deep and narrow knowledge bases. H-ll, two months after Boston got the bid a drive-time host still thought they were talking about the Winter Olympics.
-Guy who listens to sports talk almost every day.
They’re like 99% of the population? Believe it or not, that’s not an argument in favor of the Olympics. We should think very carefully before shovelling billions upon billions on a series of games in which most people don’t understand, aren’t interested and wouldn’t go to see.
This is why the stands are empty during most Olympics events.
It’s an argument of favor at not desperately clutching at every tiny straw to make your case. If you’re building policy by the opinions of sports talk hosts, you’re in rough shape.
Have you been to the Olympics? I saw a women’s basketball game between I don’t even know whom. From the very last row of the Georgia Dome. Because every other seat was filled. But you know, keep inventing stuff.
HR's Kevin says
It is one thing to make fun of the events, it is another thing to crap over the whole idea of Boston hosting the games. Yes, there are all sorts of cranks who call into the sports radio shows, but it still doesn’t help for people to hear person after person calling in to say how they think it is a waste of money. That kind of talk may not affect you, but it will help to form the opinions of some listeners.
As I said, they talk about what they know, and minimize the importance of things they don’t. Hence, they avoid those weird furren sports.
…as this goes on I’m wondering even more why someone from the Boston 2024 has not come to engage BMG. What about Doug Rubin – isn’t he involved? Certainly they can handle questions from us without falling apart.
HR's Kevin says
I am sure that he could make some sort of statement without losing composure, but he doesn’t actually know the details of anything. We wouldn’t get anytime more than the platitudes you get at the public meetings. I think that Doug is smart enough to know that is not going to be well received at this point.
If they want to engage, they better start coming up with actual details. Let us see their spreadsheets, for one. Let’s see those so-called “proprietary” documents they haven’t let us see.
They cater to a demographic that shows no interest in most sports.
As it stands, it appears that the future of the games will increasingly lie in cities experiencing political, economic, and environmental crisis or in cities in dictatorships. The Olympics have grown too big, too expensive, and the IOC is too corrupt, but they do provide one of the few ways to unite, even temporarily, a fractious and divided world. So instead of trying to see if there is a way to make this work, we’ll show the world by doing everything possible to make certain that the Olympic games are never held in the US again. But no matter, we’ll sill be able to see our “world” champion sports banners hanging in Logan.
If we are going to do away with the Olympics, why stop there? How about NCAA sports and the NFL? NCAA at the Division 1 level is inherently corrupting, and the NFL pushes a sport that cannot be safely played.
HR's Kevin says
Morning drive-time sports radio has a huge audience in Boston. I am sorry that you don’t appear to care for our local teams, but many people here do. It is exactly that passion for local sports that the Boston 2024 were hoping to tap into as part of their bid. They simply cannot afford to lose that constituency.
is that morning drive-time sports radio is more about politics and snarky buddy talk than actual sports analysis. The audience that listens to and participates in that is different than PM sports talk.
For the 2+ decades I’ve lived here, Boston sports coverage and following has always been rather parochial. Anything that doesn’t involve the Sox, Bruins, Pats, or Celts is at best second class (including the Revs) and college sports only get highlighted when local teams are involved.
Case in point: The absolute biggest sports story from yesterday was in the NCAA basketball tournament where Wisconsin ended Kentucky’s attempt at the first undefeated season since Bob Knight’s Indiana team did it in the mid-70s. Wisconsin won, 71-64 and will play Duke for the title Monday.
In the New York Times, this was the top-of-the-fold story on the first page of the SportsSunday section.
The Globe? Relegated to the second sports section, page C14.
HR's Kevin says
And it is not like the NY Times is the place to go for sports. There sports writing is pretty good but they devote few column inches to it.
The Kentucky upset was on the front page of the Sports Section in the Globs, but the bulk of the story was indeed on C14. However, you picked a day on which important games were played by two different Boston teams in playoff contention, and the Celtics game did have a really exciting ending.
I also heard the NCAA games being discussed on the radio this morning, so it is not like it is being ignored.
You are right there isn’t much talk of golf, soccer, tennis, figure skating, etc. but that is pretty much true of every sports radio station I have heard in other cities.
It still bugs me that in 2013 the day after Markey won his Senate race, the President gave a major climate address, and SCOTUS handed down a couple of significant marriage equality decisions, WCVB was basically silent on those but expanded its noon news to cover the arraignment of Aaron Hernandez, even though there really wasn’t much to say.
…that democratic nations ought to use their clout to get the IOC to do things our way. We should not concede this to the dictatorships of the world.
HR's Kevin says
While I am sure that the IOC has a history of asking a lot from its host cities, even the most minimal requirement would have to be that we provide venues for all of the events, right? So even if were to use that clout somehow, I don’t see how we get around without having to pay to build venues that don’t serve any long-term need. I suppose we could just demand that we only host the events that we have facilities for; is that what you mean?
I am also not sure in what way such “clout” could be applied. Basically, this is supply-demand. As long as there are cities/countries that are willing to pay tens of billions of dollars, nothing is going to change. Also note that there are still plenty of non-dictatorships willing to throw their hat in the ring.
…there are things that a free country either does not or ought not do in order to get the games, related to things like security or the commandeering of property. There are multiple bids this time from free countries, but I was just thinking out loud about maybe free countries vote as a bloc to select a site in a free country to host.
rich billionaires do.
And rich billionaires like nice things, such as private jets to a potential host country be wined and dined, bribes of all sorts, open bars on the taxpayers’ tabs and highways and subways restricted to their use if they’ve been sufficiently bribed/wined and dined enough to give that city the games.
If the UN was organized by countries instead of the absurdly wealthy and over-privileged modern day aristocrats of the world, many of whom have never worked a day in their life, then maybe — just maybe — we’d have Olympics at reasonable costs.
But that’s not the IOC we have.
“If the Olympics was organized by countries instead of the absurdly wealthy”
…selected by national Olympic committees to act in their interests? I was just suggesting political logrolling 101. If some countries aren’t in the running then I thought members from that country could swing their votes to another country, maybe in exchange for that country’s votes the next time around.
What did you think, they were appointed by the President?
Larry Probst is the Chairman of the USOC. Who’s Larry Probst? An extraordinarily rich person, the former longtime CEO of one of the largest video game companies in the world, EA (perennially battling Comcast for #1 Most Hated Corporation in America).
The rest of its board members are
-a CEO of a hedge fund
-the President/Chairwoman of Xerox Corp
-A high ranking executive at Microsoft
-the former CEO of Bloomberg
-the chief marketing officer of Visa
-the CEO of a corporation that makes sporting good products
-the longtime CEO of the US Ski and Snowboard Federation
-there’s a number of former college athletic directors of big time Div 1A programs
-the executive director of USA Hockey
-There’s a smattering of former Olympic athletes who have nonprofit execs executive experience or who work for hedge funds and/or are corporate consultants.
There isn’t a single person on the USOC Board who isn’t in the top 1%, and I doubt more than one or two of them fall outside of the .1%. Most are probably in the top .01%.
The path toward being invited into the USOC is either being incredibly, mind-boggingly rich or really powerful within the various prominent athletic associations throughout the country (which generally also means you’re rich, even if not Larry Probst rich), or being a former athlete who works for a hedge fund or something.
That is not what Boston 2024 was doing. It said it was doing that, while going out of it’s way to do things the IOC way. This balancing act ended up pleasing neither constituency. But I agree on pursuing a democratic bid in a democratic manner, and if the IOC rejects it then fuck em. That’s the Boston way I know, it’s not the way Boston 2024 operated. And the past tense was deliberate, these guys are toast.
Mark L. Bail says
community advancing this bid?
I don’t know anything much about Marty Walsh. What does he do well?
HR's Kevin says
He was a member of the Laborer’s union, headed the Building Trades Council and was an avid supporter of union issues as a State Rep. He is really good at looking out for the interests of unions and the building trade unions in particular.
I assume that he was so willing to become the only public official to enthusiastically promote this bid because regardless of whether the bid becomes a huge boondoggle or not, it is absolutely guaranteed to generate lots of jobs for and profits for people in the construction trades.
I think he probably genuinely believes that the Olympics will be good for Boston, but it is also clear that he is not a deep thinker and that he is the kind of guy who makes snap decisions based on other people’s recommendations. He is also clearly not a guy who is good at admitting he is wrong, so don’t look for him to make an about face on his support.
I really wanted to like Walsh, and I really wanted him to succeed as mayor. His personal story as a recovering alcoholic is pretty unusual and shows a lot of personal strength and character. I thought he could really be the sort to stand out from the crowd when the going gets tough and do what needs to be done because it’s either the right thing to do and/or the only sane thing. He must have done that in his own life regarding alcohol. I think that was the side of him that came out responding to the folks complaining after the fact about the rainbow umbrellas at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade (he apparently called them “childish.”). He very much embodies a sort of battered down, but picked himself up Everyman. He could really be a leader. But character aside, his judgment comes into serious question with this Olympics thing. I think it’s really too bad, and he might possibly not be able to recover from it.
HR's Kevin says
he made a massive mess of the sudden evacuation of Long Island and has yet to admit there was any mistakes made at all. He has yet to do anything to restore the hundreds of addiction treatment beds that were lost due to that closure. One would think someone with his background as a recovering alcoholic he would have made that his top priority.
There is his snap judgement to have the Patriots victory parade the day after a major blizzard. He had to postpone it a day when it became obvious it was not going to be possible, but it should have been crystal clear when he made the first decision. Once again, no acknowledgement that he made a mistake. He just pretended that somehow the conditions changed in some way that he could not have anticipated.
And then there is his support for John O’Brien and his harsh words for the jury that convicted him. So we have clear message from him that he considers patronage perfectly fine. Not cool.