What’s the matter with Boston? It’s not head over heels in love with the idea of hosting the Olympics. Shirley Leung thought we just needed to get past our inner curmudgeons and finally admit we really wanted to play the host. Globe blogger Eric Wilson disagrees with Leung, but thinks it’s “our heritage, our insistence not to fall into line with authority” that has caused opposition to the Boston 2024. Here’s a simpler hypothesis, one that doesn’t involve the ahistorical personification of the City of Boston: cities/countries don’t want to host the Olympics these days. The lack of interest in hosting is not unique to Boston.
In point of fact, the number of cities bidding on the Summer Olympics has been dropping since 1997 when there were 12 applicants and 5 candidate cities. Bidders for Tokyo’s 2020 games had dropped to 5 applicants (until Italy dropped out) and 3 candidate cities. The Netherlands considered applying and passed up the chance. There are 4 applicants for the 2024 Olympics including Boston.
Bidding is affect by supply and demand. The more competition among bidders, the more favorable conditions for the IOC. More competition drives up the offers made. Fewer bidders mean the IOC loses leverage. (The Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 were successful because it was the only bidder). This scarcity of bidders has not escaped the notice of the IOC, and its president Thomas Bach spent the first months of his tenure (which began on September 10, 2013) globetrotting to instigate more interest in bidding (Zimbalist). Bidding on the 2022 Winter Olympics had not gone so well:
LONDON (AP) — Rejected time and again for the 2022 Winter Olympics, the IOC will soon be seeking suitors for the 2024 Summer Olympics.
It will be hoping to attract a competitive, high-profile field to show there are cities that want to host the games rather than shun them.
Even before Oslo became the fourth city to drop out of the race for the 2022 Games, the International Olympic Committee had started reviewing its bidding system to make it more appealing and less expensive for future host cities.
And it’s not just cities that are considering the costs. The limited (and rather poor) polling on the Boston Olympics shows that an increasing number of people–more than 60% as of March–believe that public funds will be used to pay for a Boston Olympics. Times are tough. Money is tight. Why spend money on hosting? Polling data does not address people’s reasons for their lack of interest, but my hypothesis is that they don’t want to spend the money.
(WBUR, for some reason, thought it was more important to ask people their opinion of Steve Pagliuca than their reasons against hosting the Olympics. Eighty-eight percent had never heard of or had no opinion of him. A similar number of people had the same familiarity about Boston 2024 ).
One of the more interesting pieces of research (not available locally or electronically) was conducted by two Dutch architects/city planners commissioned by the Netherlands of hosting. They see increasing difficulty in marshalling support for hosting:
It is particularly difficult for democratic countries, such as the Netherlands, to harness sufficient support for these legal exemptions and the allocation of vast (public) funds to host the Olympic Games. The recent Italian withdrawal of Rome as applicant city for the Games of 2020 also shows that it is becoming difficult for European countries currently undergoing austerity measures to sustain the balance between large scale investments and maintaining public support for such a mega-event.