Let’s think big
Bringing the Summer Olympics to Boston would be a huge boon to the region.
hosting the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics would be a historic moment for Boston and Massachusetts, and would be the opportunity of a lifetime for an entire generation of Bostonians. But the effort to bring the Olympics to Boston is not just about hosting the Games and sharing our city, stories, and people with the world. Our bid to host the Olympics is about our legacy and investment in the future.
We are in the midst of a unique moment in history — the requirements for hosting the Olympics and for ensuring our region’s future success are perfectly aligned. The questions we must ask ourselves about hosting the Olympics are the same questions we need to ask about the future of our city and Commonwealth. How can we improve our transportation and infrastructure for the Olympics, and how can we leverage that modern system to strengthen our competitive edge for years to come? How can we provide housing for the world’s athletes, and then utilize that additional housing to attract and retain the future leaders, innovators, and knowledge workers necessary to ensure sustainable growth for future generations?
The stars are aligned right now. We have the public-private partnerships and private investment available to make impactful and lasting decisions for Boston and Massachusetts, and nothing spurs individuals to act like a date circled on the calendar. Let us use the 2024 Olympics as a catalyst for real planning, collaboration, and action now, before it’s too late.
With the goal of elevating our collective thinking and actions as we plan through and beyond 2030, we adopted several guiding principles that will serve as our “true north” throughout our bid effort. These principles include our commitment to align our Olympic bid efforts with our long-term planning as a city and state through 2030; gain support from government, local businesses, and communities; avoid the diversion of funds from projects crucial to our health and competitiveness as a region; do our due diligence in an open, honest, and transparent manner; and only submit a bid we think we can win. We have every intention of staying true to these principles throughout our planning effort.
Boston thrives on collaboration, strong partnerships, and smart planning. And we believe the key to a successful Boston Olympics will be the strength of our public-private partnerships. The business community must have skin in the game. And so far, business leaders have shown incredible support — moral and financial — because they understand the sustainable, long-term benefits of using the Olympics as a spark to begin developing a thorough, well-thought-out plan to meet our most significant challenges. We will also engage the public in an open conversation about the Olympic bid because we know that a successful Olympics hinges on the support of the community.
Our feasibility studies for the locations of the Olympic Village, new stadiums, and other Olympic facilities have been just as thoughtful and responsible. Regardless of their eventual locations, we recognize the importance of utilizing all new facilities not just for the Olympics but to address the most critical urban challenges facing our city — providing the housing and infrastructure improvements necessary to attract and retain a knowledge-based workforce, strengthen our brand and value proposition, and expand our economy.
Our feasibility studies for a Boston Olympics and Paralympics in 2024 have been exhaustive and comprehensive. As part of those studies, we listened to and learned from Olympic organizers from other successful host cities, particularly London. Those who point to London as an example of an unsuccessful Olympic host city have clearly never visited the city since the Olympics were held there in 2012. We personally met the London Olympics organizers, toured the city, and saw the impact of the Olympics with our own eyes.
Similar to our Boston 2024 effort, from the very beginning of its planning stages, Londoners realized that legacy, or the repurposing of Olympic investments for future uses, was critical to a successful Olympics. In fact, planners viewed legacy as a 10-year project and realized that their vision for a post-Olympics London was just as important as their vision for the Olympics themselves. There is no question the Olympic Games in London met their goals and were overwhelmingly successful in that regard.
The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games led to significant benefits for the city of London and its citizens. The Games inspired a legacy of sport and healthy living — more than 1.4 million more people were playing a sport post-Olympics. The London 2012 Games also accelerated plans to regenerate East London, one of the most deprived areas of the city. An estimated 11,000 homes are planned and more than 10,000 new jobs will be created as part of the new 500-acre Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which will be anchored by the Olympic venues in the midst of meandering park land complete with restored canals and rivers. Construction of many of these new homes began soon after the London Olympics ended. All eight Olympic Park venues were retained — there were no white elephants once the Olympics were over. And the 2012 Olympics was the catalyst for $10.6 billion of transportation investment that has supported development across London. Even London’s economic growth legacy was fulfilled as a result of the Olympics. So far, $16 billion in international trade and inward investment has been won because of the Games and promotional activity during the Games, and 70,000 new jobs were secured for unemployed Londoners. There was also an impressive 1 percent increase in international visitor numbers to the United Kingdom and 4 percent increase in visitor spending as a result of the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. By any measure, London’s ambitious Olympics vision of legacy was fulfilled and the benefits of the Games far exceeded expectations.
We also visited Barcelona, where planners admit that only the Olympic Games could have transformed their city into the modern, rebranded, and vibrant metropolis that it is today. But the Olympic successes are not limited to just Europe. The city of Atlanta lays claim to one of the strongest legacies in Olympic history, with former Olympic stadiums inherited by professional sports franchises and the former Olympic Village currently used as residence halls for Georgia Tech University. The regenerated inner-city neighborhood of Centennial Olympic Park, complete with major hotels, condominiums, and new office structures, now serves as the city’s centerpiece development, bringing significant economic development downtown. Why shouldn’t Boston at least study the possibilities of joining this list of successful Olympic host cities?
If Boston is fortunate enough to actually be chosen as the host city for 2024, we are confident our city would have a unique and compelling story to share with the world. Great stories excite people, stir emotion, and rally individuals to join together to make a positive difference in their communities. We believe in our city, and we believe our story and value proposition could strengthen the Olympic movement and have a positive influence on the world. Ours is a story of innovation. Nowhere in the world will you find a similar concentration of world-renowned healthcare, education, and research institutions and science and technology companies all in one region that could serve as a source of ideas, brain power, and innovations to forever transform the way Olympics are planned and executed.
Boston’s story is also driven by its people. We are a city that is home to a passionate, diverse, and progressive populace with high ideals that represent the very best that the cities and countries of the world have to offer. We are also a young city. The president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) closes every Olympiad with the following statement: “I call upon the youth of the world to assemble four years from now in…” This invitation is directed at the youth of the world because they are our best hope for a better tomorrow. Here in Boston, we assemble the youth of the world every year. Like a beacon, Boston draws hundreds of thousands of young students from around the globe to attend our colleges and universities. These able, ambitious, and imaginative individuals choose to come here because they believe Boston is a city that helps foster their dreams and plans for a better tomorrow. Our city and Commonwealth are magnets for the world’s most talented and inspired dreamers. So why not open our doors to the world’s greatest athletes as well?
The 2024 Olympics and Paralympics would offer us a rare opportunity to shine the spotlight of the world on our story, ideals, and people. But, more importantly, it would provide an opportunity to improve our city and create a new Boston for the 21st Century. And it would strengthen our economy, reconnect the neighborhoods of our city and regions of our Commonwealth, and instill pride in our people.I often say, “No two points in time are equal.” The world is changing, and we are now living in a global economy. We need to start thinking big, not for our sake but for the sake of our children and grandchildren. The bid for Boston to host the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics could be a defining moment for Boston and Massachusetts. Let us use this Olympics exercise as an opportunity to proudly look at ourselves in the mirror and consider what we want Boston and Massachusetts to be in 2024 and beyond. And then let’s be bold enough to take the first step toward that ambitious goal by exploring a bid for Boston to host the 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. Not exploring an Olympic bid would squander the opportunity of a lifetime.
John Fish, the chairman and CEO of Suffolk Construction, is the chair of the Boston 2024 Partnership.