Just wanted to know if you support the proposal to bring the Olympics to Boston in 2024? Have you attended any meetings on the topic?

Will’s reply:

Yes. I have attended a legislative briefing on the subject in the State House from the proponents. I’m meeting opponents in my office soon.

I do like the way the proponents are approaching the issue — they seem committed to avoiding the mistakes that other cities have made. No white elephants. No taxpayer investment in festivities. If they are approached right, I think that the Olympics could help us get a lot done on mass transit and and affordable housing.

I also think that the Boston area, with its high existing density of student housing and athletic facilities might be uniquely positioned to pull off the Olympic without an huge one-time investment.

32 replies on “Olympics?”

  1. Although I love watching the Olympics I would rather view it on TV. I was in Italy when they won the World Cup and the traffic, etc. was horrendous! It was fun for about 1/2 hour!!!

  2. I wonder how anyone can support the proposal when nobody knows what is being proposed? There are certainly no details at http://www.2024boston.org/

    I’d like to try to keep an open mind, but this has been such an opaque, secretive process. Do they have something to hide?

    Will – did the proponents give you a copy of their proposal during the briefing? What sites in your district are they considering for Olympic venues?

  3. If what you are stating is correct – no taxpayer investment, no white elephants, real commitment to improved infrastructure and affordable housing – then I might be convinced. I’ve seen nothing in the US Olympic history that is very encouraging.

  4. I would like a guarantee in writing from the organizers with the Commonwealth, that under no circumstance will tax dollars be used for the games, the venues, or any aftermath. Absolutely no bail outs by tax payers for this event or its aftermath when bills could come due. And yes, Boston getting stuck with a white elephant venue that would have no further use should be avoided. Perhaps with the new Olympic rules in place, an Olympic Stadium might become a soccer stadium for the Boston Revolution, if the Krafts wanted to wait that long before building one, or if they built one it could be used as the Olympic venue. It might be smaller, but maybe the Olympics should be smaller!

  5. In my opinion Boston would have to spend a lot on security and businesses wouldn’t benefit from the olympics because of the security requirements. Boston business lost money during the Democratic Convention and I don’t see why the olympics would be any different.

  6. After the universities don’t cough up what is expected and the next 20 years of possible infrastructure projects are put on fast forward it will become obvious that many tax dollars will be required.

  7. I can think of a dozen other ways to maximize Boston as a World Class City, I have read, talked, emailed extensively on the topic of a Boston Olympics.

    No, I do not support the proposal.
    Frances Burke, PhD

  8. Senator:

    As we’ve discussed, if external funding (and not local taxes) provided an opportunity to improve our presently abysmal mass transit system and Olympic housing were earmarked to become both low-income and affordable housing, as opposed to temporary Olympic housing, I believe the Olympics could move us forward in terms of becoming a more livable metropolitan area and deserves support.

    Careful planning is paramount however and it does mean a relatively horrendous time for local citizens, both in the construction process and during the event. Is the cost/benefit worth it? No idea. It does seem as though there are other ways to move Boston forward in the International arena — except that, again, if we finally get improved transportation and housing out of it, the other factors may be worth enduring. Because without transportation and housing improvements, Boston is never going to grow in any sustainable fashion.

  9. Will,

    I think it is pure fantasy to believe that, “No white elephants. No taxpayer investment in festivities,” will be the reality of what happens if the Olympics come to Boston.

    Here is what will happen instead… The expected resources and funding will not materialize. Suffolk Construction and all the other corporations on the “exploratory committee” — who stand to reap huge profits from the Olympics coming to Boston — will come whining to the Legislature: “Boo hoo hoo, the pie-in-the-sky, idealistic plans we made for how to fund the Olympics didn’t work out, if we back out now it’ll make Boston look bad, you need to make up the difference!” The Legislature will cave, and taxpayers will be on the hook for a huge bill.

    I don’t think the public transportation improvements will materialize. I don’t think the increase in usable housing stock will materialize.

    In short, I think the exploratory committee’s vision is a fantasy which will benefit no one but the corporations who stand to profit from it.

    Meanwhile, while all this is going on, the impact on the residents of Boston will be long and painful, as will the impact on residents during the Olympics themselves.

    On top of all this, the IOC is completely, utterly corrupt, and unless that changes, there are good moral reasons why Boston shouldn’t want anything to do with the Olympics.

    I strongly oppose bringing the Olympics to Boston, and I hope that after fully examining the relevant issues, you will come to agree.

    Jonathan Kamens

    1. I share Jonathan’s concerns listed above. Every host city seems to run into budget and and deadline issues that result in cost overruns. I am also skeptical of Suffolk Construction being one of the primary players in the initial bid for these games when they stand to reap the most benefits. We shouldn’t need to host an Olympics to fund public transportation and infrastructure projects that are long overdue.

      Tony Carlo

  10. How much is this Olympics going to cost the tax payers of Mass.? That is the only issue.

    While I have your attention, we are 100% in favor of Uber. Taxi companies need to compete with Uber and improve their services. Period. Uber is wonderful! Clean, nice cars, polite drivers (they do not drive too fast), and they frequently arrive in a minute or two. Great, great service! Taxis beware!

  11. I watched the Israelis compete at the Munich Olympics in 1972 before they were murdered
    The international situation today is much worse
    I don’t think the layout of Boston is a workable city for this venue
    We can wind up like Serrievo
    Or Greece who’s economy went down the tubes with all they spent
    Or we can wind up watching the buildings crumble after the party is over and everyone goes home like the 1964 worlds fair in queens New York
    A great cost for 15 minutes of fame
    I lived two blocks from this hope of the future and then spent 40 years watching the place deteriorate
    Put me on a committee. As a community leader I would like to be a part of this discussion if I can be of service
    I am open to the possibility with grave concerns for the welfare of our community

  12. It is true that Boston has far more dormitory housing, athletic facilities, stadiums, and transportation in place than most cities. So, if the Olympics ever decide to approve a genuinely sustainable event…that uses only existing facilities–Boston would be near the front of the line. However, the Olympics have not worked that way for many, many decades.

    I am not aware of any example of a host city that did not face astounding costs and cost overruns funded by taxpayers.

    Improving transportation and housing are things that we need to fund and facilitate independently of the Olympics. It seems like a fantasy to believe that the Olympics will “pay” for these critical assets.

    Finally, Boston does not need the Olympics to establish a reputation as a world class city. Our educational, medical, and technological strengths already make Boston world class. (And our professional and college sports teams are pretty good too.)

    The risks are large and tangible, the benefits are abstract and/or unrealistic.

  13. My own feeling is that there is no reason to host as an end in itself, but it is easy to imagine an Olympics that was able to pay the price of admission, as it were. We need affordable housing. The T needs a thorough-going renovation. If somebody can come up with a plan that ends with our getting those things that would be great. And I have to say that seems perfectly possible.

  14. There’s no way to avoid those mistakes; they come with the territory of such an international crush. Start with the stadiums; where?? Hosting the Olympics would choke the city and cost a huge amount of taxpayer money, and promises otherwise are illusory. It would put a great city at huge risk for the sake of being called “world-class”. Not worth it!

  15. Thanks to all who have weighed in. I clearly understand and share the anxiety about the financial risks involved. The discussion is helpful. I think that putting clear legal boundaries on the Commonwealth’s financial risks is the key to making this proposal finally acceptable.

  16. Thank you for responding. Most troubling about the proposal is that the process is happening behind closed doors with no public comment. The proposal itself seems to be “Top Secret”, and yet taxpayers are being asked to keep an open mind and, essentially, trust “The Committee”. I would hope that you and other elected officials demand more openness in the process before moving forward.

    Thank you

  17. I’m up in the air about this one. The history of the IOC is so tarnished I don’t trust how the decision is made. I wouldn’t want to see Boston go through expensive hoops just to meet their demands. I also don’t want to see the less affluent neighborhoods bear the brunt of disruption (like in Atlanta) without a balancing advantage.

  18. I oppose the Olympics bid. Your statement contains only one argument in favor, namely that “it could help us get a lot done on mass transit and affordable housing.”

    If we are not devoting enough money to those areas, it is a failure of you and the legislature. You should not need the excuse of the Olympics to allocate the appropriate funds.

    The Olympics would cost us big dollars and create huge disruptions. The primary beneficiaries: grandstanding politicians and self-serving business owners.

    1. If we are not devoting enough money to those areas, it is a failure of you and the legislature. You should not need the excuse of the Olympics to allocate the appropriate funds.

      Not that I’m convinced it’s correct, but I believe the argument being made is that the funding for the necessary public transit and housing improvements would come from IOC fundraising and federal funds rather than from state funds, i.e., that bringing the Olympics to Boston would open up sources of funding to which we would otherwise not have access.

      Like I said, I’m really not convinced but let’s be clear that that’s what they’re claiming.

      1. My impression is that they are claiming public funds will come more quickly than they otherwise would. That is, the Olympics will force us to change funding priorities and timing. Their approach to disclosure is similar to Jon Gruber, so the truth is elusive.

  19. Will,
    I urge you to oppose locating an Olympics in Boston.

    I know you’re familiar with the typical financial and logistical histories of past Olympics – various sources of public transfer payments from the public (e.g. tax credits, public bond issues, city and state direct investments) to various private beneficiaries (e.g. Olympic Committees, various public media sources), major congestion for the 3 weeks during which an Olympics is held, then a post-party hangover that includes leaving host cities with significant debts and various white elephant construction projects which fail to be acceptable for their intended reuses.

    However, the commitments that proponents are making, as you put it “no white elephants” and “No taxpayer investment” cannot be fulfilled. Much as TV programming is the veneer around the advertising which makes money, the Olympic spectacle is the veneer around a great deal of moneymaking activities. There are unaccounted-for public subsidies, including public safety protection.

    In short, this promise reminds me of Peanuts, where, time and time again, Lucy says to Charlie Brown, “I’ll hold the ball and you run and kick it.” And every time, Charlie Brown first objects, then is convinced, and is then tricked.

    Or, to use another analogy, whites made plenty of unkept promises to the Indians. Boston should not be the victim of promises which will not only will not be kept, but cannot be kept.

    The most compelling evidence that an Olympics can be held in a major American city without leaving that city in debt and with white elephants would be another major American city which had that experience recently. I don’t think the evidence is there.

    In Boston, every building, every square foot, is the subject of local controversy. Permitting a large complex like a gambling casino generates statewide controversy. Both take years. We’re neither able nor willing to do something as large as the Olympics.

    Boston isn’t Peanuts. Our tinkertoy transit system is not up to the task. More money is not sufficient. We lack space. We have an underground clogged with both documented and undocumented utility lines, many of which are old and themselves in need of replacement. We lack the physical space to expand the Green Line, and the wheels still shriek going around the curve at Boylston St. Every winter, the cold freezes the track switches at Alewife, and thousands of commuters get stuck. It took years of effort to get the Fairmont commuter rail to serve Dorchester and Roxbury. We blew our most recent (and probably last) chance to connect North and South Stations. The Red Line extension never made it out to Rt. 128.

    We have failed to build sufficient affordable housing, despite various deep-pocket real estate developers building 25% affordable and colleges and universities building more housing for their students. Infusions of additional money from outside sources who will be marketing housing to affluent visitors will not be sufficient. They will not change the excess of demand over supply, nor will they change the high costs of land, labor, and materials.

    As you are well aware, Cambridge is having 5 projects totaling about 2,000 units built in the Alewife area. More housing is being built in Kendall Square, in Assembly Square, and elsewhere. They are not changing our fundamentals of insufficient supply and high prices, which characterize not only Boston, but all of eastern Massachusetts.

    Boston is called the “Hub” because it is surrounded by water on 3 sides. Even if the gin isn’t getting low, the water is rising, as you well know. And downtown has a delicate balance; the water table must be maintained to keep wooden building pilings wet and subway tunnels and basements dry.

    The issue is not “this is not the right time”, which implies that another time would be better. The issue is that Boston is not the right place, now nor any time in the near future.

    Where will the multiple big stadiums go? Are our local universities all going to rebuild theirs, raising tuitions to pay for them? Where will additional housing go? In our remaining floodplain? Where will the public bathrooms go? It took 20 years to get one on Boston Common, and ours is a culture where the bathrooms of commercial establishments are for patrons only. Where will we put the multi-lingual signs that truly international cities have? That we’ve lacked them for decades is due to lack of money, but of a local intolerance for non-English speakers.

    Aram Hollman

  20. Dear Senator, I would support a Olympics in Boston.

    I agree with you that Boston is unique in hosting a summer Olympics because lots of existing student housing/athletic facilities can be shared/re-used for Olympics.

    I also like the idea to kick off some long delayed project of public transportation and infrastructure projects (highways, bridges, affordable housing).

    I don’t mean that future Olympic games need to be as splashy as the Beijing Olympics and I believe there is a good synergy of improving our infrastructure, hosting an Olympics and bringing commerical/tourist income during and after the game.

    I also understand that all project will cause interruptions and inconveniences to residences. But that is the reason to stop moving forward.
    A lot of the posted arguments against the game also applies to traffic congestions during a Patriots game at Gilette stadium or Red-Sox games at Fenway. It turns out that these teams are beloved features/symbles of Massachussetts. They are also huge success commercially. A successful Olympics will also be beneficial despite potential impacts.

  21. Hi folks,

    Have just been rereading all these comments. I think the main point is that there is a lot of public process to come.

    We can argue pro and con about the consequences, but until the details become clearer, we will be just speculating.

    I’m intrigued enough that I think competing at this stage is reasonable. But the state won’t really be signing on the dotted line for another year or two. At that point we’ll know a lot more.

  22. Boston Olympic boosters tout side effects such as infrastructure improvements, but those side effects may or may not be benefits: For example, a forced change in spending priorities might short change schools or squeeze the tax paying populace.

    The side effects argument has been framed in grandiose terms: “[W]here do we want to be in 2030, 2035?” It’s the opportunity to “to look beyond that to the next 100 years” to create a “legacy” through long-term, large-scale, comprehensive planning.

    This language evokes images of Soviet planning and the Boston 2024 approach has been decidedly non-participatory. The “legacy” will be defined by a small group of powerful businessmen and politicians, and the rest of us will pay for it. It’s the BRA on steroids, with the Olympics used as the crisis that will reshape Boston.

    Perhaps you should “never let a serious crisis go to waste,” but it makes no sense to create a crisis when it can be avoided. Boston is not “at a crossroads” that requires us to “reshape the city.” Boston is a “world class city” and the Olympics are not necessary to prove the point.

    The boosters’ grandiose goals must be weighed against the concrete reality of Olympian disruption and costs. Boston should not host the Olympics, especially guided by a self-selected group that wants to impose their vision on an already great Boston

    1. The fact that long-term, large-scale, comprehensive planning did not bring much to the city of Boston is a known factor.

      I live 6.3 miles away from the city of Boston. And it takes one hour in public transportation to work (bus, redline, then orange line) and 45 minutes to drive through traffic each day tells that the cities infrastructure is overwhelmed and out dated. And I see little hope from this “long-term, large-scale, comprehensive planning” that you hailed as a proud heritage.

      No city can stay as world class without innovation and taking on calculated risk. Sitting out on the opportunity to change is a bigger risk IMHO.

      1. Gang – you bring up a good point, The alternative is to stick our head in the sand and plod onto the next century “business as usual” . The reality is that this is an opportunity to challenge the existing mindset and break through a lot of the barriers that constrain our current thinking.

        That being said, I also agree with you concerning the current situation — I’m concerned that we can make the best of this opportunity, With good fiscal and operational planning this could be a god-send, without, it’s a nightmare.

        Sorry, but I question if we have the wherewithal to make this the opportunity it should be based on our track record.

        sooo.. label me “Waiting to be convinced (but with an open mind)”.


  23. Plus, this topic should be brought back to life as Boston will represent US in the bid of 2024 Olympics..

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