The Olympics: What Now?

A great many people have let me know about their reservations about hosting the Olympics in Boston. I personally remain enthusiastically hopeful that hosting the Olympics in 2024 could be a hugely positive thing for the city and for the state.

Here’s the most important thing to know right now: The process is just getting started. Selection to be the U.S. candidate does not bind the City, much less the Commonwealth, in any way. Rather, it gives the City the opportunity to compete. A critical part of that competition will be cementing the public consensus necessary to make credible public commitments in 2016 and 2017. The IOC will ultimately assess the quality of our leadership’s ability to deliver an Olympics venue — in terms of both management capability and public support. There will be a huge public process over the months to come, during which the details of our proposal will be fleshed out, costs defined and ultimately binding commitments made (or not).

Here is an outline of the process that lies ahead, now that Boston has been selected as the U.S. city that will compete. For more, see the website of the International Olympic Committee.

  1. Over the next 8 months, Boston (and the state and surrounding communities) will agree on a plan to be submitted to the IOC.
  2. That plan will be delivered to the IOC in a series of increasingly clear and specific documents during the period between September 15, 2015 and January 8, 2016. The January 2016 submission must include letters of guaranty — implying some cost to withdrawal after that point.
  3. In April or May 2016, the IOC will winnow the Applicant Cities down to a group of Candidate Cities who will then provide additional information to the IOC — responding to written questions and appearing before IOC.
  4. In the Summer of 2017, the full membership of the IOC will vote on a choice from among the candidate cities.

Everyone involved is confirming that the public process will be voluminous. The State House News quoted Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh as saying:

Are we just going to ram it down people’s throats? Absolutely not. We’re going to go out and talk to people in Boston.

SHN quoted Governor Baker, speaking more broadly, in the same vein:

What people need to understand is what the city of Boston achieved with this decision is the right to compete globally as the representative entity of the United States, but the actual full-blown proposal, the one that’s really going to be the representation of what the city and state and the USOC believes is the plan is going to be submitted to the International Olympic Committee in September, and that’s really what the public transparent process associated with the final bid is going to look like and I think that’s really where the focus should be.

Mayor Walsh has announced a series of Boston meetings to solicit broad public input.

  • January 27 at 6:30 p.m. – Suffolk Law School, 120 Tremont St.
  • February 24, 6:30 p.m. – Condon School Cafeteria, 200 D St., South Boston
  • March 31, 6:30 p.m. – Harvard Business School, (building to be determined)
  • April 28, 6:30 p.m. – Roxbury Community College, 1234 Columbus Ave., Roxbury
  • May 19, 6:30 p.m. – Cleveland Community Center, 11 Charles St., Dorchester
  • June 30, 6:30 p.m. – English High School, 144 McBride St., Jamaica Plain
  • July 28, 6:30 p.m. – Mildred School, 5 Mildred Ave., Mattapan
  • August 25, 6:30 p.m. – Ohrenberger School, 175 West Boundary Road, W. Roxbury
  • September 29, 6:30 p.m. – East Boston High School, 86 White St., East Boston

There will undoubtedly be many additional hearings at the state level as well, although they have not yet been scheduled.

In response to concerns expressed by many, the Boston 2024 group has now released the documents comprising their proposal to the U.S. Olympic Committee.  You can view them on the Boston 2024 website.  See also new legislation on transparency.

Published by Will Brownsberger

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

39 replies on “The Olympics: What Now?”

  1. I am undecided about the Olympics in Boston. A help would be to see the the proposal Boston presented to the US Olympic Committee. Surely secrecy is no longer required. I would ask you to push for a full publication of that presentation/proposal as it was done in our names.

  2. Boston doesn’t need the 2024 Olympics!
    How is the city and the Commonwealth going to finance all the roads,stadiums etc. and who is going to pay for the deficit. Let the sponsors sell private bonds to pay for the deficit. All cities that have hosted the Olympics recently have had substantial deficits.

  3. I HATE this idea, even though I love the Olympics. With all the rest of the infrastructure that the city and state should be working on in the next decade, creating new sports venues and traffic flows for a 17 day event seems to be way down on the priority list. I personally hope the IOC selects another country, but most of the smart cities have already pulled back because they realize the Olympics do not provide a positive ROI.

  4. Nothing I have ever heard about the results of hosting the Olympics makes me believe this is a good idea for Boston, or the state. I’d like to be able to see a cost analysis showing this won’t cost the state money and lost opportunities to improve our infrastructure in ways that will be appreciated in the next few years and by our children.

    1. The construction unions want the Olympics.

      Elected officials like to be liked by unions. It means money and votes.

      That includes not just mayors but also members of the legislature.

  5. Hosting the Olympics is a bad idea for Boston. The city and the area are densely packed, so how will the facilities necessary for the games be shoehorned into the current landscape? It will distract attention and funds from other needs in the city and the state. And what is this chest-pounding about”compet[ing] globally as the representative entity of the United States.” Better that we focus on the needs of citizens and the future prosperity of the area, but not through the Olympic Games.

  6. I would support the use of public dollars if it goes towards transportation infrastructure that has post Olympics value. It is unrealistic to think that the city could be chosen to host the Olympics without some public expenditure which I think is alright if it is limited and done in ways that help the region going forward.

  7. The Boston area is in a terrific position to host this type of event because of the large numbers of universities in the area. If we can get them on board, we’ll have access to great athletic facilities and housing. It could also galvanize the community to invest in more infrastructure and showcase our area to the world. Of course, the devil is in the details, but this is exciting news from my perspective!

  8. We are totally opposed to the Olympics in Boston for two main reasons.

    1) No one should believe for a second that there will be no cost to taxpayers. Security alone will be a nightmare.

    2) The location of the event will be a target for terrorists. After the horror in Paris this past week, my guess is that no city in Europe will want to host the Olympics. It is a very sad commentary on the world we live in today, but we have a very long way to go to make the world safe from these maniacs.

  9. My only concern is that The City & State require of the promoters, that they sign an agreement that costs & overruns must be paid by them and not Taxpayers. Boston should not be on the financial hook of the overruns in costs that so many past Olympic Venues have experienced. Yes the Mayor has promised he would not leave Boston in such a Debt. Well I’d rather this was a written agreement between the City. the Commonwealth and the Promoters who call themselves “Boston 24”

  10. I would be interested in seeing data on the impact on cities that hosted prior olympics. My understanding is that they have generally had to incur large amounts of public debt, and there has not been a major benefit from the related infrastructure spending.

  11. I am opposed to Boston hosting the Olympics. I fear it is a black hole from which it will be impossible to extract ourselves once the process begins. There have been many pledges that no public money will be used to finance construction of facilities but I believe that is a fantasy. In addition we only have to look at the ballooning costs of recent Olympics to know that controlling costs is a pipe dream. I am firmly of the belief that the Olympics will be a huge distraction from the many pressing issues we face as a Commonwealth and a city – mass transit, incentives to attract more high tech businesses and education to name a few. I also find it a bit disingenuous that officials are declaring that this will be a wide open planning process when preparations for the initial submission were clothed in secrecy. Please let’s keep our eye on what is important to make this an even greater region, becoming even more competitive in the fields of health care, technology and education.

  12. Perhaps the corporations who are making this promise that costs will be borne by them and not us can be required to post some sort of bond to ensure that in fact we don’t get stuck holding the bag for an enormous spending project that will ultimately bring bags of money their way.

    On the other hand, we do need major enhancements to our housing and public transportation resources so this could be a good avenue for that.

    What cities have come out ahead, and which have suffered long term damage?

  13. Will, You write that a great many people have contacted you with reservation about hosting the Olympics.
    Please listen to your constituents. This is a bad idea, it will cost us billions (despite empty promised to the contrary) and it will distract us from investing in meaningful programs for our people. Let Rome have the party and the long-term burden of hosting.

    Will please do everything in your power to stop this plan.

    Andy Martin

    1. well, this may not be exactly true as there are also Will’s constituents who would support Boston’s bid for Olympics. 🙂

      Will, please help us to communicate the discussions on this rare opportunity.

      Investing in Olympics, IMHO, is a sensible program to add a much needed catalyst to infrastructure investment to the city.

      Anybody interested might want to visit the following website to use past Olympics as examples to see what can be achieved using Olympics as a catalyst.

  14. Will,

    Your quote from Mayor Walsh is incomplete. He also said there will be no referendum. In other words he does not want the people to vote – probably because they would vote against it. I am also not happy that the outreach seems mainly limited to the city of Boston. This will impact the entire region and, when the inevitable cost overruns require State funding, the entire state.

    This is a bad idea. We do not need to host the Olympic games to qualify as a “world-class” city. It will be a huge expense. It will cause enormous security headaches (and more expense). It will not increase tourism (Tourism declined in London). It will displace people (There are businesses in the area where the main stadium is planned. Are we going to take the land by eminent domain?).

    This is really just a play by wealthy business people and the political elite to secure their legacies. Please be aware that every one of your constituents I have spoken with (with the exception of my wife) are adamantly opposed.

      1. I can see why they tried to keep the documents secret. Not a single mention of how this would impact Red Sox games. Count me out!

        1. Mr. Brownsberger, I have been communicating with you for weeks now about my opposition to a Boston Olympic bid. I am absolutely appalled at the manner in which this whole thing has been handled. I contacted the mayor’s office weeks and weeks ago asking (I called his office and I wrote a letter) when and how the public would be consulted on this decision. The people who answered the office phones had no idea how to answer my inquiry except to suggest I call Parks and Recreation???? No response whatsoever to the letter. We have been railroaded into this and the mayor has gone along with it. It is time for our representatives to stand up and loudly protest the disregard shown to the citizen of the city and the state.

  15. Can I read the Boston bid submission to the usoc before the first public hearing on the 27th?

      1. I’ve reached out to the Boston Olympics group and they said that they know people want that document and are working with U.S. Olympic Committee to get permission to release it. They did say that most of the presentations at the public meeting would be essentially the same presentation that they made to the U.S.O.C.

          1. Why are they only making it available to reporters?

            Is that “open” and “transparent”?

            Does a Boston Globe reporter have more of a right to see than Joe Citizen to see what promises the private-industry-heavy, unelected exploratory committee made to the USOC?

            1. I asked the same question. They say the bound documents are voluminous, so they can’t make enough copies to distribute them more widely in a practical way.

              I’ve urged them to get what they can on to the web.

              Please do keep retain at top of mind that this document, is only a starting point — in effect, an early draft of what will actually end up. It has lots of guesses and contingency theories in it as to how the whole thing will work. The next few months will define and surface the real plans, which, of necessity will be public.

              Update: Get the documents here!

          2. I don’t buy that the documents are “too voluminous.” This is the age of PDF files. We are talking about a few minutes of work. My main problem with this whole process is the lack of transparency. There is a sense of a “secret plan” that is being kept from citizens who may be asked to pay for it.
            I’m glad there are finally public meetings scheduled (although none in Allston/Brighton).

            Thank you

  16. I’d like to know more of your thoughts on why it would be positive. People I talk to have been positive about it, which surprised me. Along with that was one remark that all transportation would be brought to a standstill for those two weeks, but even that person liked the idea of it coming here.

    I’m not sure what I think yet. There were a lot of negative reports from Brasil’s world cup of it being a playtime for the rich that the rest suffered from, on balance. Would tickets be affordable to most locals?

    What kind of long term infrastructure improvements would it leave behind? With last year’s gas tax indexing reversed anything that gives a means or excuse to improve the T would maybe be worth putting up with a couple weeks of chaos. What, I guess Montreal got it’s Metro from hosting Expo 67. Maybe we could at a minimum get a stadium for the Patriots you don’t have to get in a car to go to.

    1. The main thing right now is for us to dig into the details. But, representing the Boston area between Belmont and Back Bay, I see an Olympics as an opportunity to get my district’s transportation needs escalated. The plan sketches that I have seen suggest a likely need for improvements, especially in the channel between Brighton and Boston. But we’ll have to see how things firm up.

  17. Will,

    I have been approached by more than one constituent who is concerned about the effects of the Olympics on the communities that are abutters or near abutters to Boston. I am hoping to bring this up at a Town Council meeting this week. Would you be interested in discussing a possible forum on the topic?

  18. Senator Brownsberger,

    Thank you for your open attitude toward the Boston Olympic Bid. I am personally very excited at such a prospect and look forward to the planning process over the next few years. I fear that many people are outright opposed without giving it a chance. It is important to stay open-minded and understand that the city and region can learn from others’ failures.

    We’ve learned what went wrong with the Big Dig, so I am confident in my government’s ability to improve the process in order to become more efficient and cost-effective. We have learned what worked and what didn’t in London, plus we already have many venues built, which certainly was not the case for Sochi. This is a great honor and opportunity for Boston. I grew up hearing the inspiring stories of Olympians from around the world. There are incredible stories of struggle, adversity, and facing long odds. Boston as the setting for these stories to unfold would inspire a generation of Bostonians, Bay Staters, and Americans.

    I look forward to the open process and hearing more about your participation in planning. Have a great day!

    1. Thank you. So far, I haven’t participated in planning — I don’t know much more than what I read in the papers. I do see a real opportunity, but we all need to get into the details now. I will do that with interest.

  19. The chairmen of “No Boston Olympics” have put into words, far better than I could, why the process of winning the USOC competition was flawed, why the process of trying to win the IOC competition will be similarly flawed, and why the process itself, and bringing the Olympics to Boston should that come to pass, will both be bad for the city:

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