7 Reasons Why Boston’s Olympic Bid Failed

The U.S. Olympic Committee pulled the plug on Boston's bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics Monday. The decision came after months of low public support and mounting criticism over whether the city should host the games.  (Charlie Riedel/AP)
The U.S. Olympic Committee pulled the plug on Boston's bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics Monday. The decision came after months of low public support and mounting criticism over whether the city should host the games. (Charlie Riedel/AP)

There will be no Olympics in Boston in 2024.

The city's quest to host the 2024 Summer Games came to an end Monday after the U.S. Olympic Committee pulled the plug on Boston's bid.

Since Boston was selected as the U.S. bid city in January, the effort has been beleaguered by low public support, criticism over a lack of transparency and an active opposition group. Here is a closer look at the issues and controversies that brought down Boston’s Olympic bid:

Lack Of Public Support

Over the last few months, public support for bringing the games to Boston has been lukewarm. Support for the Olympics has declined steadily since Boston was chosen by the USOC, going from 51 percent in January to 40 percent in July, according to WBUR polling.

At the end of June, the USOC said it was not happy with the current level of public support and wanted to see higher numbers soon. The latest WBUR poll had statewide support for the games at 42 percent with 50 percent opposed, and Boston area support at 40 percent with 53 percent opposed. Here’s a look at Boston area poll numbers in recent months:


Statewide support was slightly higher than in the Boston area, but still did not represent a majority of registered voters. Here’s a look at statewide poll numbers in recent months:


A Lack Of Transparency

From its early days, Boston 2024, the group that oversaw the city’s bid, faced criticism for a lack of transparency.

The day after the USOC tapped Boston for the American bid, Mayor Marty Walsh promised to have the “most open, inclusive and transparent process in Olympic history.” But Boston 2024 did not release its bid documents until two weeks after securing the bid. That was in mid-January, and that initial release of documents did not include some information — notably two sections that dealt with public and political support for the Olympics.

The original bid — “bid 1.0” — was superseded by a newer plan in June, called “bid 2.0.” But there were still calls for the full release of the original bid, which is the proposal that beat out three other cities to be the U.S. choice to host the 2024 Olympics. Back in February, state legislators filed a bill to make the bid more transparent by creating a commission to oversee the effort.

More recently, there has been mounting criticism about the bid from city councilors. After a threat of subpoena regarding “bid 1.0,” Boston 2024 released the full version of their original bid, including the previously redacted portions, last week. Those portions showed Boston 2024 organizers downplayed local opposition to the bid.

A Small But Mighty Opposition

Opposition to the Olympics has been swift and vocal since the beginning of the bid process. The biggest voice has been No Boston Olympics, a volunteer-based group run by three young professionals. While Boston 2024 touted jobs, housing and community development as benefits of hosting the games, No Boston Olympics was persistent with its message that hosting the games was risky, expensive and would leave taxpayers footing the bill with no economic gains.

Though small, No Boston Olympics has had an out-sized effect on the public debate over the Olympics — driven largely by the group’s ability to tap into social media and its consistent presence at public meetings about the bid. The opposition group even faced off with Boston 2024 in a primetime television debate last week.

A Push For A Referendum

Since the beginning of Boston’s bid, there has been a sense among some that the Olympics effort was being forced on the public. This led to calls for the public to get a vote on whether or not to host the games. In the first polling WBUR did on the Olympic bid, back in January, 75 percent of Boston area voters said they wanted a referendum.

Boston 2024 supported the idea of a referendum, saying it would pursue one in 2016 and wouldn’t move forward without winning a majority of support. In recent weeks, a group of Massachusetts residents called the Olympics Ballot Coalition filed a petition to get a referendum on hosting the 2024 Games on the state’s 2016 ballot. The measure also called for a ban on taxpayer spending on the games, with the exception of transportation projects.

The Winter Of 2015

Remember this?

A Green Line train runs along Commonwealth Avenue in late January to clear the tracks of snow. The MBTA's struggles this winter led to a proposed overhaul of the transit system. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
A Green Line train runs along Commonwealth Avenue in late January to clear the tracks of snow. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Boston’s brutal winter brought record-breaking snowfall to the area and massive public transportation failures — leaving many to question how the MBTA and the city would be able to handle hosting a major international event.

WBUR's polling showed support for hosting the games was at its lowest in February and March, when the city was dealing with the worst of the winter weather.

Salaries Of Boston 2024 Staff

Criticism of Boston 2024 also mounted in March after the group released the salary information for its staff. The list showed CEO Richard Davey making $300,000 per year and five other top staffers making more than $100,000. The group also planned to pay former Gov. Deval Patrick $7,500 per day for his role as “global ambassador.” After increased scrutiny over the former governor’s pay, Patrick eventually said he would pass on the paid consulting job.

Free Speech Kerfuffle

Not long after Boston was tapped as the U.S. bid city, Mayor Walsh was criticized for signing an agreement with the USOC that bans city employees from criticizing Boston’s bid. Walsh initially defended the agreement, which said city “employees, officers and representatives” were banned from making any comments that “reflect unfavorably” on the USOC, the International Olympic Committee or the city’s bid.

Walsh at that time said he wasn’t looking to limit the free speech of his employees, but that the agreement was “standard boilerplate language for the Joinder Agreement with the USOC that all applicant cities have historically signed.”

He later revised the agreement with the USOC, dropping the language limiting the speech of city employees.

Headshot of Zeninjor Enwemeka

Zeninjor Enwemeka Senior Business Reporter
Zeninjor Enwemeka is a senior business reporter who covers business, tech and culture as part of WBUR's Bostonomix team, which focuses on the innovation economy.



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