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.
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.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.
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.