Boston is an unsuitable choice to host the 2014 Summer Olympics. Upon reading Boston 2024’s bid presentation material, I immediately began recounting Boston’s greatest infrastructure development nightmare – seconded perhaps only to the Boston Tea Party – The Big Dig. That project, in its infancy, made promises to revolutionize Boston’s congested highway system and create economic growth and create construction jobs and build new housing. Touting such benefits, the $15 billion debacle remains the nation’s largest construction project to date. Coincidentally, $15 billion is also the average cost to host a summer games according to International Olympic Committee (2015). Boston 2024 seems to believe Olympic prestige can be had for just under $5 billion, and Chairman John Fish has all but guaranteed Bostonians that the group’s proposed budget would not require public funding (Fish, 2015). The looming question remains; does it make sense to spend billions of dollars for the the construction of athletic venues – some of which will be temporary – that may never be used after the Olympics, let alone provide a return on their initial cost? Can three weeks of fame and notoriety for the hosting city and country justify a the rerouting of so many resources from the areas in which they are already needed?
The conversation surrounding Boston as the host city of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games has changed directions several times since the idea was first considered pushed in 2012. However, the overall trend of the discussions – and more importantly that of public support – has been steadily downward. A recent poll, taken March 16-18, by Boston news outlet WBUR and MassINC reveals only 36% of respondents support hosting the Olympics – down 15% from the same poll taken in January.
A more recent poll of Massachusetts’ residents suggests that support for Boston hosting the Olympics in 2024 hasn’t improved despite Boston 2024’s continued campaign to win over the city and state. Gravis Marketing, a Florida-based nonpartisan research firm, conducted a survey of 2,182 Massachusetts residents. According to the pole, 49% of residents oppose Boston hosting the games, while 37% support the idea (Gravis, 2015). Regarding the use of public funds to cover Olympic cost overruns, respondents answered that they believed no public funds should be used by a margin of 66-24 (ibid, 2015).
While supporters see the the proposal as a opportunity to bring long-term economic growth, new jobs, housing and improved infrastructure to Massachusetts (Zimbalist, 2015), those opposed cite the likelihood that taxpayers will be undoubtedly responsible to cover cost overruns (Levenson, 2015). There are also mounting concerns about non-profit group Boston 2024’s lack of financial transparency (Moore, 2015) as well as Boston 2024 Chairman John Fish’s mixed messaging regarding a Boston 2014-sponsored referendum (Seelye, 2015). “It seems that voters have been turned off by some aspect of the group’s growing engagement process,” said Steve Koczela of The MassINC Polling Group, in a March 20 interview with WBUR’s Curt Nickisch. The CEO of the USOC, Scott Blackmon, told Nickisch, “it’s much more important that those numbers be high two and a half years from now than it is that they be high now.” Blackmon’s statement was strange however seeing as his agencies submission of Boston’s bid application is due much sooner, and because Boston’s support or lack thereof down the road would be irrelevant should Boston 2024 withdraw their bid. It should also be noted that Boston 2024 only began supporting a public referendum vote following the release of WBUR’s polling results.
“Boston 2024 doesn’t have a marketing problem. It has a product problem. This is a bid that was pulled together behind closed doors and then unveiled to the public,” stated Chris Dempsey, Head of opposition group No Boston Olympics.
Boston completed the first step in what the International Olympic Committee considers a three-part bidding process to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. On December 1, 2014 the private non-profit Boston 2024 submitted it’s official bid presentation to the United States Olympic Committee. Shortly thereafter, on January 1, 2015, the USOC announced its endorsement of the Capital of Massachusetts – beating out nine other host-hopeful cities including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Dallas. The next deadline according to the IOC is September 15, 2015, when the USOC must submit officially declare Boston as an applicant city. The group lobbying for Boston to host the games is a private non-profit called Boston 2024, and represents a group of influential businesses, politicians and consulting firms, according to a recently disclosed document listing Boston 2024 staff salaries and affiliations. According to Boston 2024’s list, the total combined salary for the group’s 10 core staff is $1,335,555.00 (Boston 2024, 2015). The financials were made publicly available following a request from Boston Mayor Marty Walsh on March 10. The release of Boston’s staff salaries also followed the groups announcement that it would be paying former Ma. Governor Deval Patrick $7,500 for each day he spent lobbying for Boston 2024’s bid. However, Patrick declined to accept payment after increased scrutiny of Boston 2024’s privately funded campaign (WBUR, 2015).
Of all the arguments against Boston hosting the 2024 Summer Olympics, perhaps the strongest are those presented by Smith College Economics Professor Andrew Zimbalist. Zimbalist points out the huge gap between Boston 2024’s projected cost of $4.7 billion to host the games versus the actually costs incurred by recent Olympic host cities. The most recent example he uses is the London Olympics in 2012, which had an initial cost of $4 billion. When all was said and done, the actual costs were greater than $10 billion (Zimbalist, 2015). The YouTube video below presents Zimbalist’s many arguments for why Boston should reject Boston 2024’s bid to host the games.
Prof. Andrew Zimbalist Speaks at No Boston Olympics Meeting
No to Boston 2024 Olympics HD, by No Boston Olympics
Boston 2024 Olympics Video: Beacon, by Boston 2024
A study by UMass Donahue Institute, and commissioned by The Boston Foundation, claims an economic impact of $5 billion could be realized by Massachusetts in 2024. It should be noted that Robert Caret, President of University of Massachusetts – parent university of the Donahue Institute – is currently serving as a co-chair of Boston 2024’s College and University Engagement Committee.
The Boston 2024 opposition party is a three-person non-profit called No Boston Olympics. No Boston Olympic’s Chris Dempsey told New England Cable News’ Peter Howe on Thursday, April 2, 2015,
“Boston 2024 doesn’t have a marketing problem. It has a product problem. This is a bid that was pulled together behind closed doors and then unveiled to the public,”
Dempsey’s statement came in response to Mayor Marty Washes belief that what the Olympics bid has is fundamentally a public relations problem. Both Dempsey and Walsh made valid assessments, however. Boston 2024’s public campaign to bolster support, lead by group Chairman John Fish first, has been very reactive in approach.
Boston 2024. (2014, Decemebr 1). Number1: Overall Games Concept. [PDF file] Retrieved from https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/1507219/bostons-2024-olympic-bid.pdf
Gravis Marketing. (2015, April 9-10). Bay State residents oppose Boston 2024 Olympics. Retrieved from: http://gravismarketing.com/polling-and-market-research/bay-state-residents-opposed-boston-2024-olympics-support-referendum-on-tax-fund-use/
Olympic.org. (n.d.). 2024 bid process gets underway with new Invitation Phase as IOC begins to implement Olympic Agenda 2020 Reforms. Retrieved from http://www.olympic.org/news/2024-bid-process-gets-underway-with-new-invitation-phase-as-ioc-begins-to-implement-olympic-agenda-2020-reforms/242779
Levenson, M. & Ryan, A. (2015, March 30). Boston 2024 tries to overcome some slips at starting block. Retrieved from http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2015/03/29/boston-works-address-early-mistakes/zi6me7yubkNC7CjTVNqDkI/story.html
Manfred, T. (2014, October 16). Nobody Wants To Host The 2022 Olympics – And One Example From A College Professor Tells You Why. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/economic-benefits-of-hosting-olympics-2014-10
Matheson, V. A. (2009). Economic multipliers and mega-event analysis. International Journal of Sport Finance, 4(1), 63-70. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.snhu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/229394587?accountid=3783
Matheson, V. A. (2009, Oct 04). The games that got away. Chicago Tribune Retrieved from http://ezproxy.snhu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/420849758?accountid=3783
Nickisch, K. (2015, March 20). Support For Boston Olympics Falls Further, WBUR Poll Finds. Retrieved from http://www.wbur.org/2015/03/19/wbur-boston-olympics-poll-march
Seelye, K. (2015, March 24). In Reversal, Boston 2024 Wants Vote on Olympic Bid. New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/25/sports/olympics/in-reversal-boston-2024-wants-a-vote-on-the-olympics.html?_r=0
POGATCHNIK, S., & Hui, S. (2012, August 13). Trade body says UK tourism slumped during Olympics. Retrieved from http://bigstory.ap.org/article/trade-body-says-uk-tourism-slumped-during-olympics
Zimbalist, A. (2015, January 9). Boston Would Be Lucky to Lose the Olympics Competition. Retrieved from: http://www.wsj.com/articles/andrew-zimbalist-boston-would-be-lucky-to-lose-the-olympics-competition-1420847406
Below is a list of the remaining public community meetings that Boston 2024 will hold.
- April 28, 6:30 p.m. – Roxbury Community College, 1234 Columbus Ave., Roxbury
May 19, 6:30 p.m. – Cleveland Community Center, 11 Charles St., Dorchester
June 30, 6:30 p.m. – English High School, 144 McBride St., Jamaica Plain
July 28, 6:30 p.m. – Mildred School, 5 Mildred Ave., Mattapan
August 25, 6:30 p.m. – Ohrenberger School, 175 West Boundary Road, W. Roxbury
September 29, 6:30 p.m. – East Boston High School, 86 White St., East Boston
I hope to present an in-depth and objective examination of the Boston’s bid to host the ’24 Olympics. Although I am not a resident of “Beantown,” I did grow up about 20 minutes away, and presently, my job has me commuting into the city twice a week. I am not a professional journalist, nor do I have any affiliation with any organizations associated with Boston’s bid to host the 2024 Olympics.
As a communications graduate student, it is my responsibility to inform readers by implementing ethical standards and best practices in my writing. In doing so, I set out not to influence or sway reader opinion. Instead, my intent is to raise public awareness and promote further discussion. I will also strive to engage a wider and more diverse audience by using a robust set of new media technologies and social media tools.
The social and economic impact incurred by any host city are substantial and inevitably long lasting. Therefore, public involvement is critical to ensure that any outcome benefits citizen taxpayers. The positions I have presented represent arguments for and against Boston 2024’s proposal. My primary goal is to provide factual information from credible and reputable sources, identify inconsistencies, and acknowledge my own vulnerabilities a creator and curator of knowledge.
Additional Information | Further Readings
- No Boston OlympicsNo Boston Olympics, official website
- Boston 2024, offical webpage
- All of Boston 2024’s Communication & Presentation materials can be found here
- Boston 2024 Staff Salaries