Fact-checking Walsh’s Olympics claim
Evidence suggests the mayor didn’t pull the city’s bid
BOSTON MAYOR MARTY WALSH said during Tuesday night’s mayoral debate that he pulled the plug on the city’s Olympics bid.
“I was the person who actually pulled out of the bid and I was very clear from the very beginning that I was not going to mortgage the future of the city,” he said during the debate with his challenger, City Councilor Tito Jackson.
Jackson, an early skeptic of the city’s Olympics bid, disputed Walsh’s characterization. “He is misremembering what actually happened here,” he said.
Walsh was one of the leading proponents of Boston’s Olympics bid for 2024. It was only when public opposition to the bid started to gain steam during the summer of 2015 and the US Olympic Committee lost patience with the city that Walsh went before the cameras and said he wasn’t willing to put Boston on the hook for any cost overruns.
“If committing to signing a guarantee today is what’s required to move forward, then Boston is no longer pursuing the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” he said during the press conference.
The tone of his statement was that Walsh was pulling the city out of the bid process, but what he actually said is that he needed more time. In fact, the US Olympic Committee was concerned that Bostonians weren’t behind the bid and was preparing to make the switch to Los Angeles.
Later that same day, in fact, 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,” the statement said. “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.”Chris Dempsey and Andrew Zimbalist, two of the leading opponents of the Boston Olympics bid, said in their book on the subject, No Boston Olympics: How and Why Smart Cities Are Passing on the Torch, that Walsh appeared awkward at the July 27, 2015, press conference – “attempting to separate himself from the bid without actually saying that the bid was finished.”
They concluded Walsh couldn’t withdraw the city’s bid without running the risk of triggering a $25 million penalty that the mayor agreed to when he signed an agreement with the US Olympic Committee in 2014. That agreement, Dempsey and Zimbalist said, also committed the city to signing the International Olympic Committee’s host city contract, which would have included the financial guarantee that Walsh claimed he was unwilling to accept.