Boston 2024 Seeks Referendum On Olympics BidPlay
The organizers of Boston's bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics say they will pursue a statewide referendum on bringing the Games here.
John Fish, the chair of the nonprofit Boston 2024, said his group will seek the referendum in November 2016 — a presidential election year. The International Olympic Committee is set to make its host pick in 2017.
Though it would be a statewide vote, Fish said the referendum would also need to pass in the city of Boston for the Olympic effort to move ahead.
"If we cannot win a majority voting bloc in Boston, we don't want to move forward," Fish, a construction CEO, said in an address to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Tuesday morning.
Tuesday's announcement comes after the most recent WBUR poll showed support for the Olympics falling sharply, and a day after Boston 2024 took out two full-page newspaper ads saying they would not move to pursue the bid without majority support in Massachusetts. The ads listed 10 criteria the group said need to be met for it to move forward with the Olympics bid, including creating thousands of jobs and affordable housing.
In response to Tuesday’s announcement, the opposition group No Boston Olympics sent out a tweet referencing WBUR's most recent polling, which showed only 36 percent of Boston area residents support a Games here.
The group said in another tweet: "Giving voters a voice on #Boston2024 is critical. It's also critical that ballot language fully/accurately reflects the choice at hand."
Chris Dempsey, the co-chair of No Boston Olympics, said the group would like to work with Boston 2024 on crafting the language for the statewide ballot. He also said his group is considering putting together a ballot initiative just for Boston voters this November.
"We think the question that you would ask voters statewide is fundamentally different than the question you might want to ask voters here in Boston," Dempsey said.
Gov. Charlie Baker applauded Boston 2024's announcement that it'll seek a referendum, a spokeswoman said.
“Governor Baker supports the ballot initiative process in general as it offers everyone a chance to weigh in on critical issues,” Elizabeth Guyton said in a statement. “Further, the administration believes the bid process for Boston 2024 should remain as open and transparent as possible, ensuring the protection of taxpayer dollars.”
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, a supporter of the effort to land the Games, said in a statement that "the success of our bid for the Olympics depends on the support of residents and we should only move forward in a way that will bring the greatest benefit to the City and its neighborhoods."
Walsh also urged residents to learn more about the city’s bid and called the Olympics “a catalyst to unlocking our full potential.”
There have been previous calls for a referendum on bringing the Olympics to Boston, including by former gubernatorial candidate Evan Falchuk.
In WBUR's first poll on the issue, in January, 75 percent of respondents said there should be a referendum on bringing the Games here.
Tuesday's announcement of a referendum drive also came after a UMass report found that hosting the Olympics would generate billions for the Massachusetts economy, but that cost overruns are a risk.
Boston 2024, a privately funded nonprofit, has also been under scrutiny in the last few weeks over the high salaries of its staff.
WBUR's Asma Khalid and Benjamin Swasey contributed reporting.
This article was originally published on March 24, 2015.