BOSTON With Boston selected as the U.S. bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, many questions remain about the road to the Games and the impact the global event could have on the city. Here are a few things to know:
1. What will the 2024 Summer Olympics cost Boston?
Boston presented a $4.5 billion proposal to the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) in December. That proposal has not been made public. In its pitch, Boston said it would partner with local universities to host a more fiscally responsible Olympic Games and reuse venues and housing, WBUR’s Curt Nickisch reported. The proposal also promised to make the Olympics more walkable by utilizing public transportation.
The city’s Olympic efforts are being led by Boston 2024, a privately funded nonprofit, and there have already been pledges of privately funding the Games.
Gov. Charlie Baker said Friday that he looks forward to working with Boston 2024 and Mayor Marty Walsh to address “keeping costs down and continuing to press forward on pledges of a privately funded Olympics as the process moves forward before the IOC.”
Walsh said taxpayer money would not be used to build venues. According to Boston 2024, tax dollars would not be used to pay for the operating costs of the Olympics.
Public investment will be confined to roadway, transportation and infrastructure improvements, most of which are already planned and are needed with or without the Olympics. The federal government will pay security costs, as it does for all U.S. Games.
Total costs of the Olympics often comes with a hefty price tag, as we’ve previously reported. The United Kingdom spent $14 billion on the 2012 London Games and China spent $40 billion on the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
2. Can opponents stop Boston’s bid?
With concerns over the cost and use of public funds, there are several people opposed to bringing the Games to Boston. Some on social media have also asked why there is no public vote on the matter.
Why do casinos get a public vote but not the Olympics? @marty_walsh @MassGovernor Let the residents decide not this sham committee.
— Christine (@cmjcmj13) January 9, 2015
On Friday, Walsh said if a poll was conducted he believes “a majority of Bostonians are excited about this bid.”
Walsh promised to have “the most open, inclusive and transparent process in Olympic history.” The city plans to host nine community meetings about the bid. The meetings will take place in neighborhoods across the city over the next nine months, giving residents the opportunity to discuss the impact of hosting the Olympics.
Those that oppose Boston’s bid say hosting the Games would be a financial drain and that money should be invested elsewhere. A group called No Boston Olympics says it’s considering a state ballot question to prevent Boston from hosting the Games.
Such opposition has hindered other cities’ Olympics hopes. Denver backed out of the 1976 Winter Olympics after opposition, NPR reported.
It may be the most insulting snub in Olympic history. After seeking and winning the right to host the 1976 Winter Olympics, the city of Denver backed out of the games. Colorado voters rejected public funding of the Olympics in 1972 and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was forced to turn to Innsbruck, Austria, the host city eight years earlier.
Recently, Oslo dropped its bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics after the Norwegian government announced it would no longer fund the effort and after a nationwide poll found 58 percent of Norwegians didn’t want to use public funds for the Games.
Supporters of the Boston bid say it will highlight Boston as a world-class city and could provide infrastructure improvements.
3. Which cities would Boston compete against for the Games?
Those hoping to bring the Games to Boston will face tough international competition. Boston will compete against Rome, a yet-to-be-named city in Germany, and possibly Paris or South Africa, NPR reports. If South Africa bids, it could be a very attractive pick as “some in the IOC may be tempted to stage Africa’s first Olympics ever, as the organization seeks to spread the spirit of the Games.” Istanbul and Doha may also bid for the Olympics, according to Reuters. Hungary is another potential bidder, the AP reports.
The U.S. has not hosted a Summer Olympics since 1996 in Atlanta. Chicago lost out on its bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics while New York had a failed bid for the 2012 Games.
4. How does the U.S. bid fit in with the new vision of the Olympics?
In picking Boston, the U.S. Olympic Committee shows that it believes the city understands the International Olympic Committee’s new vision for the Games, as the AP reports.
USOC chairman Larry Probst said Boston’s bid was in harmony with the recent IOC reforms, called Olympic Agenda 2020, designed to reduce the cost of bidding for and hosting the games. The measures recommend maximum use of existing and temporary facilities.
The USOC asked all the cities contending for the U.S. bid to cut costs, use infrastructure already in place and build structures they would use even if not hosting the Olympics.
Organizers of Boston’s bid have said they plan to draw on the area’s colleges and universities to host events and house athletes and media. Suffolk Construction Co. CEO John Fish, head of the group behind the city’s bid, said college facilities would account for three-quarters of the venues for the Olympics.
Here is a map of some the proposed Boston Olympic venues.
5. What does economist Andrew Zimbalist say?
Some critics say even using infrastructure already in place poses challenges.
“In Athens, the reports are that three-quarters of the venues went into disuse and that was after several years of trying to maintain them and spending several million dollars per venue trying to maintain them, but over time they were unable to continue to do that,” Smith College economist Andrew Zimbalist told WBUR’s All Things Considered. “That was probably the most extreme example of white elephants and waste.”
He added that other cities have been more successful in incorporating and using the Olympic venues after the Games, but that there are still ongoing costs. He said in London, a plan to convert an Olympic stadium into a soccer stadium ended up costing over $400 million when they had to reconfigure the field and stadium.
Zimbalist has researched the costs of hosting the Olympics and has written about it in his book “Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup.” He said the costs of the Games could exceed $10 or $15 billion in total financing costs. He said Boston’s cost estimate is not realistic and the Olympics always have cost overruns.
“When the promoters of the Olympics Games try to convince the public officials to support the Olympic effort, they come in with a bare bones plan with very few frills, and then over time once the commitment is made all of the elaborations, all of the frills come on top of that,” Zimbalist said.
So, what does Boston need to consider to avoid these issues? Zimbalist said the city needs to minimize the amount of new buildings and have a plan for the city outside of the Olympics.
“You have to have some vision for what you want your city to look like before you start putting Olympic venues in place A and place B and place C,” Zimbalist said. “So, you need to do the urban planning first and then see how you can fit Olympic venues into that.”
Over the next nine months, the Boston bid will evolve from a concept to an actual plan. Final applications from cities vying for the Games are due to the IOC in January 2016. The IOC is expected to make a decision on the host city for the 2024 Olympics in 2017.
What other questions do you have about Boston’s bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics? Share them in our comments section below.