Mayor Walsh: Olympics A 'Once-In-A-Lifetime Opportunity'

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh says the city's bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games will give Bostonians a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to consider the bigger picture for one of the nation's oldest cities as it heads toward its 400th birthday in 2030.

In his state of the city address, Walsh on Tuesday credited what he called Boston's vision of "a 21st century, affordable, sustainable" Olympics for winning over members of the U.S. Olympic Committee, who chose Boston over other American bidders for the 2024 games, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

"Boston now competes against the world, as America's city. Whatever the outcome, Boston will prove itself a global leader," Walsh said. "The whole world will soon know what we have always known: Boston is exceptional."

He again promised a transparent public review of the city's Olympics bid, including a series of neighborhood meetings, and said even if Boston isn't ultimately chosen to host the Olympics, the bid will give the city a chance to think big about what it wants to accomplish over the long term.

"We'll take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to talk about our city's future: in education, in housing, in transportation and more," he said. "When we talk about 2024, we'll be talking about what Boston needs today. And what Boston needs in 2030, 2040, and 2050."

Walsh said that while the city is "strong and getting stronger," too many residents continue to face hurdles to quality schools, affordable housing and a living wage. To address these problems, he said, the city is expanding full-day kindergarten and making $20 million available for affordable housing.

Walsh also pointed to the protests sparked by recent grand jury decisions in Missouri and New York not to charge white police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men. He said that while he was proud of Boston's response, he also acknowledged the city's troubled racial history.

"I know from my own life you can't move forward unless you reach out and deal honestly with the past," said Walsh, who has acknowledged his battle with alcoholism as a young adult.

"The truth is that when it comes to race and class, Boston has a lot of unfinished business," he added. "We must not be afraid to talk about it."

During the speech, delivered in Symphony Hall, Walsh also said the city's hearts and prayers are with the people of Paris in the wake of terrorist attacks there.

The former state lawmaker and labor union leader was elected in November 2013 to succeed Mayor Thomas Menino, the city's longest serving executive, who did not seek re-election after two decades in office. Menino died last fall after battling cancer.

This article was originally published on January 13, 2015.



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