Just days after a WBUR poll found support for bringing the 2024 Summer Olympics to Boston had again fallen sharply, the group behind the bid says they will only move forward if a majority of people in Massachusetts support the effort.
A WBUR poll released last week found just 36 percent of people in the Boston area back hosting the Games, while 52 percent oppose it. That's down from 44 percent support in February and 51 percent support in January.
Boston 2024 on Monday took out full page ads in The Boston Globe and The Boston Herald, which read in part:
We believe the Games will enhance our future and be a catalyst to create good-paying jobs, spur economic development, improve our infrastructure, increase affordable housing, provide educational opportunities for our young people and inspire the next generation. "There are legitimate concerns and potential risks associated with this effort that must be addressed in a thoughtful and transparent manner for the Games to work for Massachusetts.
Boston 2024 CEO Richard Davey said the group took out the ads to "ground us back" to the initial goals of the hosting the Games.
"To be clear, I think we've had some distractions the last couple weeks," Davey told Morning Edition host Bob Oakes Monday. "The Olympics are not about salaries and whatnot. This is about jobs, it’s about economic opportunity, it’s about bringing the Games to Boston and our region."
The privately funded nonprofit has been under scrutiny over the salaries of its staff. Boston 2024 released salary information two weeks ago, showing Davey makes $300,000 while five other top officials make over $100,000 each.
"[Boston 2024 is] a big reason why we've seen this decline in support, people don’t trust them," Republican political analyst Todd Domke told Morning Edition Monday. "The problem is a lot of Boston residents concluded that those in charge of planning were not as concerned about things like improving train travel as they were about having a gravy train."
Democratic political analyst Dan Payne said Boston 2024 should "try and regain some moral high ground" and follow former Gov. Deval Patrick's example and work for free. Patrick was initially set to make $7,500 each day he traveled on behalf of the organization, but decided forgo that pay after it came under scrutiny.
Davey said in addition to "distractions off of what the Games should be," he believes the tough winter also contributed to the declining Olympics support.
In its ads, Boston 2024 calls the Olympics "a once-in-a-lifetime catalyst for economic growth and investment in our future" and lists 10 different criteria (see below), including having a majority support, that must be met before the group submits its final bid to the International Olympic Committee.
Payne said he doesn't believe the ad positions Boston 2024 well.
"They’re essentially saying, ‘If you don’t support this, then we won’t have the opportunity to bring you the Olympics,’ and I think that’s a lousy positioning for them to be in," Payne said. "What they really should be doing is thinking about how they can promote this better rather than putting the blame on the citizens."
Davey said his group plans to continue having public hearings and meetings.
"We've got some work to do, no doubt, but we’re confident if we work hard over the next year or two, we should be able to achieve a majority public support to move this forward," Davey said.
In addition to WBUR polls, there have been calls for a voter referendum on bringing the Olympics to Boston. Davey said they are open to either approach.
"At this point I don’t think we’re endorsing either approach, but both approaches certainly make sense and I think we’re going to be considering how we do that over the next weeks and months," he said. "But the bottom line is whichever tool we use to measure support we want a majority support."
Here are the 10 criteria Boston 2024 says must be met for them to submit a final bid to the IOC:
1. Hosting the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games is consistent with the future of Boston and Massachusetts and leaves both better for hosting the Games.
2. Tens of thousands of good-paying jobs are created for Massachusetts residents leading up to and during the 2024 Games.
3. Thousands of affordable housing units are created as a result of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
4. The 2024 Games serve as a catalyst for improvements in public transportation and infrastructure that benefit residents both pre- and post-Games.
5. The 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games create opportunities for transit-oriented, mixed-use development in the City of Boston.
6. There is a clear and measurable plan for the inclusion of women and minority-owned businesses in all aspects of the 2024 Games.
7. Education and youth sports opportunities are created for the young people of Massachusetts.
8. A sophisticated plan, including multiple layers of insurance, is put in place to protect the city and state from financial risk.
9. The federal government designates the 2024 Games in Boston as a Special National Security Event and pays for the security costs.
10. A majority of people in Massachusetts support bidding for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.