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The leadership of Boston 2024 and the U.S. Olympic Committee were in Switzerland Wednesday for a full day of private meetings with senior staffers at the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne.
“It was a whirlwind day,” said Steve Pagliuca, who was making the trip in his first full week as the chair of Boston 2024.
“It was a really interesting day and, personally, it was a very exciting day,” said Boston 2024 COO Erin Murphy.
The organizing group’s top staffers characterized the meetings as informal conversations that were productive, friendly and at times inspiring. Boston 2024 delegates were joined by top-level members of the U.S. Olympic Committee, including USOC board chair Larry Probst and board member and Harvard Business School student Angela Ruggiero, as well as CEO Scott Blackmun.
“We had a strong delegation from the USOC because this is really important to us,” Blackmun said. “We want America to put its best foot forward.”
The day’s agenda started with a tour of the newly-expanded Olympic Museum in Lausanne. Pagliuca said he was personally moved by some of the stories of sportsmanship and international fellowship displayed there. Others from Boston 2024 said they hope one day the museum would display a collection from Boston, from the 2024 Summer Olympic Games.
After the tour, the Boston and U.S. delegation met with senior-level staffers of the IOC, including Olympic Games Executive Director Christophe Dubi and Head of Bid City Relations Jacqueline Barrett.
Boston 2024 members said they were impressed with how the IOC listened and seemed opened to their ideas. Murphy said her impression of the organization was very different from what may be a stereotype for many people.
“Old white guys behind closed doors, and not a whole lot of input and not a whole lot of transparency,” Murphy said of some public perception of the IOC. “That’s not at all the impression I got today.” She said she enjoyed talking to the women on staff and meeting with many young employees.
However, Boston 2024 officials shared few details about specific proposals and issues discussed in the private meeting.
“I don’t want to get into total specifics,” Pagliuca said. “But there were some interesting ideas [the IOC] had about how to utilize venues.
“They were open to a lot of plans we had," he added. "They gave us a lot of pointers on that and I thought they were very useful. And just their openness to have that back-and-forth and use that experience was gratifying, because I think it’s really going to advance our bid and advance our understanding in a big way.”
Boston 2024 needs to advance the bid in a big way. The group’s rollout earlier this year of their plans to stage the Olympics got a lukewarm reception in Boston. The private nonprofit is working on a revision that is planned for publication in June.
In contrast to the reception in Boston, where the opposition group No Boston Olympics on Wednesday asked to meet with the IOC as well, in Lausanne the Boston bid received strong encouragement, Pagliuca said. The Boston 2024 chair said the IOC did not express concerns about lack of public support in Boston, and instead emphasized it’s a long process.
Palguica said, “A piece of advice was: ‘Do it right. Take your time.'”
The visit was part of a new so-called “invitation phase” the IOC is debuting in its bidding process. Other candidate cities are making similar visits. It’s part of a series of reforms the IOC passed in December, called Agenda 2020, that call for holding more sustainable and cost-effective Olympic Games that don’t leave host city with “white elephant” venues that are no longer used.
The USOC's Blackmun said it was clear from the tone of the meetings that the IOC is serious about the new approach. He also said it was good for IOC staffers to meet the new head of Boston 2024.
“They seemed to react very well to Steve,” Blackmun said. “I think his passion for sport and his passion for his city came across loud and clear.”
Blackmun said the ball is now in the court of Boston 2024 and the USOC to convince the citizens of Boston that hosting the Olympics would be a win for the city.
“The key thing is for the citizens of Boston to believe in it,” Blackmun said. “Because no matter how much we believe in it, if they don’t believe in it, it’s not going to happen.”
This segment aired on May 27, 2015.
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