Boston drops out of running for Olympics
Mayor, governor wouldn't be rushed on commitments
THE PRIVATE GROUP seeking to host a Boston Olympics in 2024 dropped its bid on Monday, shortly after Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Gov. Charlie Baker told the US Olympic Committee that they needed more time before committing to the effort.
Scott Blackmun, the CEO of the US Olympic Committee, issued a joint statement with the private group Boston 2024 citing the inability of Olympic organizers to win support for the Games from a majority of Boston residents.
“Boston 2024 has expressed confidence that, with more time, they could generate the public support necessary to win the bid and deliver a great Games. They also recognize, however, that we are out of time if the USOC is going to be able to consider a bid from another city. As a result, we have reached a mutual agreement to withdraw Boston’s bid.”
The announcement, sure to ignite a major public debate about the reluctance of Boston residents and officials to pursue an Olympic bid, followed a frenzied morning of phone calls between USOC officials and Baker and Walsh and a hastily arranged Walsh press conference at City Hall.
Baker seemed surprised at the US Olympic Committee’s sudden need for quick action. “Nobody ever said that was a problem until about a week ago,” he said. “We had a time frame, we had a timetable. We announced it in March, and we stuck to it. I think in some ways if our timeframe wasn’t one that worked with the way the USOC was thinking about this, that’s unfortunate. There’s not a lot anyone can do about it.”
At his City Hall press conference, Walsh said he remains a strong supporter of hosting the Olympics. But he said the US Olympic Committee was pressing him to quickly sign a document that would put the city on the hook for any cost overruns associated with hosting the 2024 Games. He said he needed more time to negotiate the terms of that agreement and come up with insurance protections for taxpayers.
“We have met every demand and every challenge, but I cannot commit to putting the taxpayers at risk,” said Walsh, the biggest political backer of a Boston Olympics. “If committing to signing the guarantee today is what’s required to move forward, then Boston is no longer pursuing the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
Walsh added: “This is a commitment I cannot make without assurances that Boston and its residents will be protected. I refuse to mortgage the future of the city away. I refuse to put Boston on the hook for overruns.”
Walsh held his press conference after talking by phone with Blackmun. Walsh said Blackmun urged him to think very carefully about what he would say at his press conference. Walsh also said he talked by phone with Baker and Boston 2024 Chairman Steve Pagliuca.
Boston 2024, the private group that has spent millions of dollars laying the groundwork for hosting the Games, insists it has built four layers of financial protection into its bid to shield taxpayers from footing any bill. But apparently Walsh was not convinced. He said he didn’t want taxpayers to pay one cent for cost overruns, which presumably meant Boston 2024 would have purchased any insurance protection the city required.
Walsh said he had no regrets about supporting Boston’s bid for the Games, noting the discussion has pushed forgotten areas of the city (primarily Widett Circle, where an Olympic stadium was proposed) and the needs of the city (housing) on to the front burner.