Great Statement on the Olympics

Scott Lehigh’s recent column on the the Olympics does a great job in summarizing my frame of mind.

I like the Olympics idea and feel we can eventually work through most of the concerns about venues, transportation, etc. But I’m most concerned about the possibility of the taxpayers picking up the tab. We need to be sure that the taxpayers cannot be tagged for cost overruns or revenue shortfalls — the Olympics product is a risky one financially and the organizers need to find a way to layoff that risk to private parties better able to evaluate and accept it.

The only way that the Olympics organizers will get private sector takers of the risk is if the upside can be made highly probable to exceed the downside. We can fairly assume that revenues have probably already been maximized in the planning. The only alternative is double down on the idea of a truly low-cost, sustainable Olympics. If the organizers move in that direction decisively, then they can reduce the risks enough that they will find private sector takers.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

20 replies on “Great Statement on the Olympics”

  1. Will,

    I live in Belmont and met you a few times at the library when you were our rep.

    That’s an interesting article. For me, though, the question is simple: If Boston does host the Olympics, will the state of MA be willing to let project fail if whatever private financing, insurance, etc. does not come through? Failure could be very ugly:

    * If construction is not complete, the Games might have to be canceled. The whole world will call Boston “the city that failed” forever.

    * Partially built projects could be abandoned, leaving a scar the state would have no choice but to fix.

    The answer is obviously no; the state would not allow this to happen. Therefore, the taxpayers will ultimately be on the hook no matter what; they will get the downside, and the corporate interests pushing the project will get the upside. That is not acceptable.

    The way I see it, there is only one viable option here. The USOC has to put its tail between its legs, admit it made a huge mistake, and resubmit the bid from another city to the IOC. It seems pretty likely the IOC would not accept that, so basically the USOC would be withdrawing its bid. Probably the IOC would not trust USOC bids for decades to come, so the US will not host an Olympics for a long time. That’s a really bad outcome… but it is the unavoidable consequence of the USOC’s actions, and is better than punishing Boston to make up for the mistake.

    I’m happy to hear your thoughts about this.


  2. We need detailed accounting and transparent finances. Boston 2024 keeps talking about private financing. I have yet to see where the money is coming from. How much is coming from TV and commercial sponsors, who are they? What happens after the Olympics, what infra structure will remain and what will be temporary?

    Unfortunately MA tax payers remember being burned by “The Big Dig” and the MBTA (and the people of MA) are still paying for that. The money paid to influential people in MA to act as consultants by Boston 2024 to “ease the wheels” during the bidding process looks like “business as usual” and that’s why there is so much skepticism around the whole project.

  3. I’m not against tax money being spent on the Olympics. It just depends on how much and on who gets to see the benefit. If the money goes to a few property speculators and powerful people then that would be bad. If the money is spent to improve the MBTA or to provide low cost housing then that would be good. If the Olympics is run for the people of MA rather than the rich and the powerful then spending a bit of tax payer’s money would not be a bad thing….I juts don’t believe that’s how Boston 2024 looks at the project.

  4. With the horrible experiences that we all went through this winter, I think that it is the most important for Boston to fix the T system. Also, for our children’s future, Boston needs to improve its quality education for all especially for the bilingual children which is about 60% of BPS students.

    We would not want to host the Olympics where Boston has so many problems that need to be fixed or improved.

    I also can’t imagine the commute from school/work/home if the Olympics will be here in 2024.

  5. 205 School St
    Dear Will,
    The headaches of an Olympics are many, and past experiences at other cities show that the long term effects are minor or negative. The hidden cost of all this is the billion plus that we taxpayers will pay through Federal funding. My idea for years has been to set a permanent site, perhaps in Greece, and hold the games in one venue every 4 years. Great cost savings throughout the entire system.
    Sam Ellenport

    1. I like the idea of a single Olympics site that is maintained by the international commumity. The costs and inconvenience of building and renovating new infrastructures for a two week event is crazy.

      I think the secret is already out – the taxpayers will be forced to pick up the tab for the Olympics while the organizers will make millions. Let’s repropose Los Angeles or someplace else that already has the infrastructure. Biston doesn’t need the Olympics – everyone already knows who and where we are.

    2. Such a common-sense idea will never fly, I’m afraid. Why? Too many special-interest groups feeding at the trough.

  6. Dear Senator Brownsberger,

    I agree totally with you on the Olympics. I love the Olympics, but I do not want my tax dollars going to construct sports stadiums of any kind, nor do I want my money spent on a one-time sports event.

    However, if a benefit involves improving the MBTA, that should be considered. I have always thought that if the money spent on the Big Dig could have gone to MBTA improvements, we would have a much better city. Let’s not make the same mistake twice.

    I believe that all taxpayer money spent should be totally transparent. In all cases, I would want to know exactly what my tax dollars are paying for as regards the MBTA.

    I love the idea of a permanent location for the games. Greece could certainly use the income!

    Thank you.

  7. The way I understand it, the proposal is to use existing facilities for the games and for housing the athletes. Any money raised would be used to fix our infrastructure to support the games. Considering the problems we had this winter, it seems that leveraging the games to improve our infrastructure is a good idea. Eventually, we are going to have to fix the problems and find a way to pay for the fixes. Why not use the games as motivation and a possible discount on that looming price tag? Eleven years ago we hosted the Democratic National Convention successfully. I am sure we can do this as well.

    1. I have read no source that says anything but public funds will be spent on infrastructure.

      Funds “raised” by the Olympics go to the International Olympic Committee or the US Olympic Committee, not to any infrastructure that will benefit residents.

  8. The olympics will hurt small businesses during the time of the event. Just look what happened when the Democratic Convention was in Boston at TD Garden. Waiters at North End restaurants were standing around waiting for business that never came. I was working in retail at the time — conventioneers did no shopping and my regular customers refused to come into the store because of the convention. There are several ways to lose money because ofI a big event like the olympics! I say “NO!” to them.

  9. Hi Will,

    I agree with you that holding an Olympics may put tax payer at risk. It might cost tax payer money if things don’t play out well enough.

    But, all public projects have risks. As a matter of fact, at every part of our life, we must face of risks, injury, financial loss, emotional setbacks, etc.

    And we still make risky decisions. That is how we make progresses.

    IMHO, the key is to estimate the risk and rewards at the same time, not to nitpicking on the potentials of risks.

    Nothing is and will be risk free.

    I see Boston 2024 as a great chance to improve the cities transportation infrastructure because nothing good happened to MBTA for the past 20 years; Without Olympics, maybe for the next 20 years.

    If I can save half an hour each way on my daily commute, that is more than 200 hours annually for me to stay productive or take care of my family . And I think Olympics is one of the best chances to get public transportation improvements. (I am only 7 miles away from work, why would it take a hour and multiple transfers each way?)

    Improved infrastructure saves everyone commuting time and time is a priceless resource. That is one of the upside I think the Olympics will bring in, alongside with other long over-due improvements(business opportunities, housing units, sporting venues and operation incomes)

    1. Hi! I’ve heard this from other people, but I can’t find a source for why they think it.

      Can you tell me why you think hosting the Olympics will lead to better transportation infrastructure for non-Olympic uses, such as your commute?

      Since any transportation infrastructure improvements will come out of public money, not Olympic funding, I can see no reason why the Olympics is even a part of such conversations.

      I think this past winter should be sufficient incentive to fix the T! What do you think?

  10. I have yet to hear a single, compelling and credible reason why Boston should host the Olympics,.

    I have, however, heard myriad compelling reasons supported by evidence for rejecting the idea of hosting the Olympics. These include: disruption of local businesses during the games, disruption caused by construction of venues (and their later destruction, in some cases), the environmental impact, use of tax dollars, use of eminent domain, security and the impact of security measures on the freedom of ordinary citizens.

    Not least, the Olympics have already arrogantly and without community Input presumed to take up land that has been the focus of years of community planning and discussion in order to build short-sighted “media center” and parking lots.

    We don’t need a velodrome, we need cycle tracks.
    We don’t need an acquatics center, we need modest housing.
    We don’t need a stadium, we need a T that works in all weather, roads with intact pavement, and bridges that don’t fall down.

    The Olympics has distracted our politicians and overwhelmed public discourse.

    Drop the bid and let’s get back to work on a vision for residents that will wow visitors, not a vision for visitors that will harm residents. A vision for 2030, not three weeks in 2024.

    Drop the bid, or give me a compelling reason to support it. Read Massachusett’s own professor Zimbalist on the financial questions, too!

  11. I am really concerned that the proposal to host a Summer Olympics in Boston is ill conceived. No one wants to talk about the security costs and brush off questions of security by saying “Oh the Federal Government will pay for that”. I think we will all pay for that. Security is not just a question of money-it is also a question of disruption to the everyday lives of residents and workers in the greater Boston area. There will need to be mass surveillance of mass transit, key installations (gas tanks, nuclear power stations, tunnels, etc) traffic stops and checks points etc. This will be needed not just for the duration of the games but in the lead up to the games. Maybe my perspective is colored by my experience of growing up in Northern Ireland, but 3 years ago no one would have imagined that terrorists would target the Boston Marathon.

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