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Is It Time To Consider Boston 2028?

Display boards on and over the parquet floor at the TD Garden remain in place after a news conference, Thursday, June 18, 2015, in Boston, where it was announced that TD Garden would be the site of the Olympic and Paralympic basketball finals and Olympic gymnastics and trampoline if the city wins a bid to host the 2024 games. (Elise Amendola/AP)
Display boards on and over the parquet floor at the TD Garden remain in place after a news conference, Thursday, June 18, 2015, in Boston, where it was announced that TD Garden would be the site of the Olympic and Paralympic basketball finals and Olympic gymnastics and trampoline if the city wins a bid to host the 2024 games. (Elise Amendola/AP)
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Like many people, I’ve been ambivalent about the prospects of bringing the 2024 Olympic Games to Boston.

On the one hand, the notion that the city I love would be elevated to the world stage for three full weeks, (not to mention the build-up) was pretty heady. Hey, they call Boston the Athens of America, don’t they?

On the other hand, I was concerned that we, the people of Boston and Massachusetts could very much find ourselves on the hook for cost overruns and construction headaches that had not been thoroughly thought through, wasting public funds that could be better spent elsewhere.

So when it was announced on Monday that Boston’s Olympic bid was dead, I wondered if anything could be salvaged from what has dominated political discussion for the last eight months.

The Boston 2024 bid seemed to come out of nowhere ... before the general public could fully wrap their arms around the idea, the USOC handed Boston the torch and said, 'run with it!'

That’s when I thought of Boston 2028.

No, that’s not a typo. I’m suggesting the Boston 2024 organizers retool, and look to bring the 2028 Summer Olympiad to Boston.

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There is no guarantee that an American city will actually get the nod by the International Olympic Committee for the 2024 Games. Paris or Budapest might very well win out over Los Angeles or Washington, D.C. So, Boston should be forward thinking. Why not look four more years down the road, and get our ducks in a row for the next Olympiad? We should do so in the hopes that we (meaning our political leaders, business leaders and citizens) can put together an even stronger, better, more unified bid. Think of it as a preseason or rehearsal leading up the big show. What we do with these extra four years is crucial.

The Boston 2024 bid seemed to come out of nowhere. While the public was preoccupied with the transition from a Democrat to a Republican in the corner office of the State House, all of a sudden we started hearing about this grandiose scheme to bring the games. And before the general public could fully wrap their arms around the idea, the USOC handed Boston the torch and said, “Run with it!” The proposal was moving too fast, and skepticism was too high for it to succeed.

Now we’re left with the pieces of the failed bid scattered across the landscape. Let’s take what was good about the proposal, such as the need to fix of our broken transit system and other crumbling infrastructure, and develop a plan to get that done. Let’s jettison what was bad about the proposal, such as questionable tax schemes and funding fall-backs, and come up with a way to do that without putting public financial footing at risk. Let’s craft a true, public-private partnership, and educate the public about why staging the games in Boston would be good for the region.

Let’s craft a true, public-private partnership, and educate the public about why staging the games in Boston would be good for the region.

One of the best aspects of the state’s gaming law, is the requirement that voters accept in a referendum whether their community will host a casino. It helps prevent deep pocketed developers from moving into a community without citizen’s approval. Focusing on 2028 allows us to do just that but on a statewide level. Organizers can spend the next three plus years developing a transparent plan. Critics can raise points of contention, and the organizers can address those issues. The Boston 2028 plan would be put before voters on the 2018 ballot. The question would be simple. “Should the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts bid on hosting the 2028 Summer Olympic Games?” If the voters feel the organizers have been open and transparent, and answer all their questions about funding, the bid would be submitted.

But unlike the bid for the 2024 games, this one would already have the public’s stamp of approval. We would all feel like we’ve had a say in the process.

Time was simply too short for Boston to properly vet the proposal in order to meet the Sept. 15, 2015 deadline to sign off on a host city agreement for the 2024 games. I got the impression Gov. Charlie Baker and Mayor Marty Walsh each felt like they had a gun to their heads by the USOC. I don’t blame the panel. It takes a lot of work to plan for the Olympics, so time is of the essence.

Now we’ve got an extra four years to do it right.

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Steve Brown Twitter Senior Reporter/Anchor
Steve Brown is a veteran broadcast journalist who serves as WBUR's senior State House reporter.

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