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Citizens Voice Olympics Concerns, Hopes At First Boston-Run Hearing04:29
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A supporter of the Boston Olympics bid gives a thumbs up in front of a group opposed to the bid, during the first public forum regarding the city's 2024 Olympics bid, on Thursday. (Charles Krupa/AP)
A supporter of the Boston Olympics bid gives a thumbs up in front of a group opposed to the bid, during the first public forum regarding the city's 2024 Olympics bid, on Thursday. (Charles Krupa/AP)
This article is more than 4 years old.

Around 350 Boston residents turned out Thursday night for the first city-run hearing on hosting the Olympics. The hearing lasted for more than three hours.

Citizens at the meeting aired a number of concerns and questions about the Olympic bid at the meeting.

Most everyone who packed the big room at Suffolk Law School was displaying Boston’s latest fashion trend: wearing whatever they wanted, plus snow boots. The mayor, too, stood taller in his suit with thick, rubber-soled shoes. The snowy weather, Mayor Marty Walsh said, shows why the Olympics would be good for Boston.

"We saw it this very week, when our MBTA system went down, our road system went down," Walsh said. "An upgrade of our infrastructure is certainly something we can use in the city of Boston."

Many of those in the audience voiced concerns about how Walsh and the private organizing group, Boston 2024, have handled the process of bidding for the Games. Some people who spoke up back the opposition group No Boston Olympics.

"Essentially, what will it take to stop this?" asked a South End man named Dan. His remark was quickly followed by applause before others continued to voice concerns about the bid.

"I’m Lee Humphrey. I live in the Bay Bay. And what I would like to know is why this process is so one-sided and unfair? I think No Boston Olympics should have equal time in these occasions to counter the big pitch we’ve been getting," he said.

A Roslindale resident named Mark said previous speakers had already asked questions that he also wanted aired, and that, down the road, he'd like to be able to have his opinion heard in a vote.

"At some point, I’d like to be able to walk into a voting booth and vote 'yes' or 'no' on whether or not I want these Olympics to be held in Boston," he said.

Others in the audience said they support hosting the Games, but that they just want to know more in order to know how the Olympics would affect them personally.

"I live in the Back Bay, and I want to thank you for your concept," Susan Morris said. "Where is the budget to replace the ancient trees in the Common that you plan to cut down to put a volleyball stadium in?"

Boston 2024 proposed a beach volleyball venue on Boston Common, and to start the marathon and road cycling on Charles Street between the Common and the Public Garden. (Boston 2024)
Boston 2024 proposed a beach volleyball venue on Boston Common, and to start the marathon and road cycling on Charles Street between the Common and the Public Garden. (Boston 2024)

A resident of Chinatown said that if Boston were to win the bid, it would be a huge employment opportunity for residents.

Apprehension around traffic and transportation surfaced a few times during the meeting, even among those who liked the idea of the Olympics.

"Harbor Point right now is one of the most thriving mixed-incomed communities in the United States," Orlando Perella said, addressing the mayor. "So having something coming to us is absolutely wonderful for all the residents. Our concern is that we have only basically one way to exit the peninsula, and that is Mount Vernon Street."

There were also questions about cost, about how the Games would be financed and how much exposure local taxpayers have to cost overruns. But some people said the transportation infrastructure improvements envisioned by Boston 2024 don’t go far enough.

"I don’t think three more platforms at South Station is a transportation vision," said Brad Bellows, of Cambridge. "Unification of regional rail, with a tunnel between North and South Station, should be dusted off and looked at, and we should find a way to do it, because that’s the kind of vision that we really need for the next century."

Organizers of Boston's bid for the 2024 Olympics said they plan to utilize transportation projects that are already in the pipeline. (Boston 2024)
Organizers of Boston's bid for the 2024 Olympics said they plan to utilize transportation projects that are already in the pipeline. (Boston 2024)

And finally, there was a guy named Devon. Wearing a red, white and blue winter cap, this Boston resident had a different concern.

"If and hopefully when this Olympics occurs successfully, do you think that Boston will be cemented as the greatest athletic city in the history of mankind?" he asked, as the crowd laughed.

Eight more of these meetings are planned in different Boston neighborhoods over the next eight months. Leaders of the city and Boston 2024 say they’ll review all the comments, and the feedback will shape the Olympic bid that’s underway.

This segment aired on February 6, 2015.

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Curt Nickisch Twitter Business & Technology Reporter
Curt Nickisch was formerly WBUR's business and technology reporter.

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