Boston 2024 CEO Cautions Olympic Venue Plans May Evolve

The CEO of the group seeking to bring the Olympics to Boston said venue locations might not be nailed down even by the time Boston 2024 makes its final submission to the International Olympic Committee.

Saying he wants more than "concepts," House Transportation Committee Co-chairman William Straus on Monday asked Boston 2024 to provide concrete plans for venue locations in advance of a September deadline.

"Generally that's not how the process works," Boston 2024 CEO Rich Davey said in a brief interview after an event Tuesday. "There will continue to be a refining process."

Neighbors have attempted to dissuade 2024 Olympics proponents from planning events in some locations, such as beach volleyball on Boston Common. In other cases, people from outside Boston have asked to make their cities host to some of the competitions.

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell wants to host sailing in his city. Davey said people in Lowell would be "delighted" to host more events, while there is "a lot of interest" in putting venues in Worcester, and he expects interest in Springfield, where he plans to visit in two weeks.

Asked whether he would confine the Boston Games to within Massachusetts, Davey noted that Boston 2024 Chairman John Fish has discussed holding preliminary rounds in New York and Chicago.

By Sept. 15 cities bidding on the Games are required to notify the International Olympic Committee if they will be submitting a bid, and an application and guarantee letter is due Jan. 8, 2016. Candidate cities will make presentations to the international committee in the summer of 2017. The U.S. Olympic Committee in January selected Boston as the country's choice to compete for hosting the Games.

Legislative leaders have called for the Games to be more spread out around the state than the compact bid presented to the USOC.

Saying there is "a lot of the public process left to do," Davey said Tokyo made multiple changes while planning to host the 2020 Games. He said, "Even after it won the bid it made additional refinements, so again this is an iterative process."

Davey, who was formerly the state's transportation secretary, said he was open to another of Straus' requests — for the Olympics proponents to provide the funding for study controlled by the state that would look into the impacts of hosting the Games.

Before undertaking a series of public hearings on the proposal, a state commission analyzed the feasibility of hosting the Games. Fish, the chairman and CEO of Suffolk Construction who has led the effort to make Boston host of the 2024 Games, was co-chairman of the commission with Sen. Eileen Donoghue, a Lowell Democrat.

During a meeting on Monday, Speaker Robert DeLeo, Senate President Stanley Rosenberg and Gov. Charlie Baker discussed hiring a consultant to help them evaluate the Olympic proposal.

"I feel like right now we're just operating in the dark in terms of what or what not we should be looking for relative to Boston 2024," DeLeo said after the meeting. "I think the only way we're going to be able to work our way through this process, through the bidding process and what not, is to have our own consultant here at the State House. No one wants to see the taxpayers stuck with any type of bill and I think the consultant will help us wade through that process and make sure that doesn't happen."

"I think we need to see ultimately what emerges, but look, at the end of the day we want to be open and transparent and if we can help the Legislature and the governor and get more information to them from an independent source, we are very open to that," Davey said Tuesday.

In a radio appearance last week, DeLeo said he doesn't want an Olympics that "almost bankrupts" the city or requires a state or federal bailout and questioned the sturdiness of the financing plan.

"What's the cost going to be and what is our backup plan if we're a little bit short of funds? Where is that money going to come from? Is it going to come from private donors as is stated? What type of guarantees do we have that that's going to happen? And if that doesn't happen for whatever reason someone has to be on the line for that money and it's going to be Massachusetts, I feel," DeLeo told WBZ radio "Nightside" host Dan Rea. Noting the Olympics have been pitched as a privately funded taxpayer-free enterprise, he said, "I need to have a little more comfort that that's actually going to be the case."

Davey said the Olympics would not put the state's financial future at risk.

"The mayor's been clear. We're not going to bankrupt the city or the state or risk its financial future to host the games in 2024," Davey told reporters. Asked why Boston should pursue the games, he said, "This is what world-class cities do. We raise our hand and say we want to welcome the world in a very meaningful way without ... taking significant risks."

Straus said he was pleased to learn that Davey is inclined toward funding the study and was not dissuaded from his other request that the proponents announce what venues they plan to use.

"I'm glad they will agree to foot the public's cost of review and I stand by my original request for an early announcement of the list of venues that they will be proposing to the IOC," said Straus, a Mattapoisett Democrat.


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