A vision for a Boston Olympics

Group pitches jobs and transportation improvements

BOSTON’S OLYMPIC BOOSTERS on Wednesday performed a rerun for the media of their winning US Olympic Committee presentation, emphasizing the close proximity of venues inside the capital city and the opportunity for the Games to bring jobs and future economic growth to the area.

Dan O’Connell, the president of Boston 2024, said the Olympics would cost $4.7 billion in private money and create an estimated  70,000 jobs, spur transportation improvements needed for the Games and future economic development, and transform the campus of UMass Boston,  which will play host to the world’s athletes.

After initially balking at releasing its bid documents, Boston 2024 decided to make all of them available except for estimates of land and construction costs. The Boston 2024 presentation is little more than a vision of what could be 10 years from now, but it nevertheless was an unusual exercise for a city that rarely thinks grandly about its future. The presentation even renames the area around Widett Circle – the proposed site for the temporary Olympic Stadium close to the Broadway and Andrew T stops on the Red Line – as midtown.

Officials said Boston would be unique among Olympic cities, with 28 of the 33 venues located within six miles of each other and the average distance between venues the shortest of any other Olympic host. Nearly all of the venues would be in Boston. Sailing would be in Boston Harbor, baseball at Fenway Park, badminton at Boston University, and beach volleyball on Boston Common. Equestrian events would be held in Franklin Park, gymnastics and basketball at TD Garden, and judo, table tennis, taekwondo, wrestling, and indoor volleyball at the Boston Convention Center.

Outside Boston, Harvard would host aquatics, water polo, field hockey, tennis, and fencing, and MIT would host archery on its front lawn. Somerville would play host to cycling events, while Gillette Stadium would be the venue for soccer and rugby. Lowell would host boxing and rowing, The Country Club in Brookline would host golf, and two places yet to be determined, probably in western Massachusetts, would handle mountain biking and kayaking.

House Speaker Robert DeLeo said on Wednesday he’d like to see the venues scattered around the state in places like Springfield, Worcester, the South Coast, and the Berkshires. But David Manfredi, an architect and the cochair of Boston 2024’s planning committee, said one of the chief selling points for a Boston Olympics is the ease of getting from one event to the next.

“We believe that Boston is the right-size city for the Olympics,” Manfredi said. “We believe the Boston Games can be the most walkable Games in modern times.”

Manfredi also said other parts of the state would benefit as thousands of athletes from all over the world descend on the area looking for places to train. He said playing fields across the state would probably be booked by countries. “And they pay rent,” he said.

Manfredi  said athletes would be delivered to events via dedicated buses, but he said early feedback from athletes was that many would prefer to walk. From the proposed Olympic Village at the existing Bayside Exposition Center next to UMass Boston, Manfredi  said it would be about 1.5 miles to the proposed Olympic Stadium in Widett Circle. He said visitors leaving the Olympic Stadium would be steered toward downtown Boston along the Fort Point Channel, where hospitality barges would be set up.

Key transportation improvements needed for a Boston Olympics bid include expansion of South Station and the removal of the South Boston Postal Annex, the Green Line extension to Somerville and Medford, the new interchange and proposed West Station at Beacon Yards, new cars for the Red and Orange lines, and new power and signaling systems. Most of the projects are either under way or planned, but funding and significant logistical hurdles remain for several of the projects.

Reporters grilled O’Connell on whether a referendum should be held on whether the state and Boston should play host to the Olympics. O’Connell said citizens have the right to mount referendums, but he said he hoped a vote would not be needed, noting it’s difficult to encapsulate the complexity of an Olympics bid in an up-or-down vote. He also refused to say whether Boston 2024 would continue with its Olympics bid if voters rejected the idea, noting that the wording of any question would dictate the group’s strategy.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Asked why the have-nots in the Boston area would support an Olympics bid, O’Connell said the have-nots would benefit from the low-skilled jobs created and the transportation improvements. “The have-nots of the city ride the T,” he said.

Included in the packet of materials was a memo from the pollster Kiley & Co., which analyzed public attitudes toward an Olympics bid. A poll conducted in April 2014 by Kiley indicated 48 percent of Massachusetts residents supported an Olympics bid and 23 percent opposed it. As more information about the potential benefits of an Olympics bid were provided, the Kiley memo said that eventually 66 percent of those surveyed supported a bid.

A more recent WBUR poll found that Bostonian favor an Olympics bid by a 50-33 margin, but three-quarters of those polled said they favored a referendum on the issue.