What is “is” in Olympicspeak?
Well, now, this is a fine kettle of fish, as Laurel and Hardy would say. And it’s beginning to smell.
The Boston 2024 people have said repeatedly and publicly that this will be a privately-funded Olympic Games with no reliance on public dollars save for security and previously planned infrastructure upgrades. The key word there is “publicly.” What they’ve said privately appears to be open to interpretation.
The Boston Business Journal, which obtained previously undisclosed documents through a public records request, reports that, despite vows to put on a completely privately-funded Olympics, Boston’s winning bid to be the US entry relied on “rosy assumptions and the promise of public funding to win the US Olympic Committee’s backing to potentially host the 2024 Summer Games.”
The release of the bid book, which includes previously undisclosed information, is certain to fuel the NIMBY choir from the nattering nabobs of negativity here in our provincial burg. It should also tick off even some of the more ardent supporters.
- “Initially, a public authority (e.g., City of Boston affiliated Industrial Development Authority) will fund land acquisition and infrastructure costs…”
- “We have determined that the [organizing committee] budget will finance approximately 33% ($173M) of cost of the stadium… The additional $345M (67%) needed for land acquisition and infrastructure upgrades will use tax increment financing bonds secured by new tax revenues.”
- The bid book says the temporary stadium would be built where the New Boston Food Market currently sits, saying the cooperative is for sale. That’s news to the folks who work and own businesses there.
- The organizers are (were) counting on an expanded Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, now scuttled by Gov. Charlie Baker, for some indoor Games, parking, and media headquarters.
Boston magazine also obtained a copy of the bid book through a public records request to UMass. The magazine points out the differences between several previously undisclosed nuggets and, like BBJ, what appears to be contradictions between what was said what is proposed. The magazine points out, for instance, statements earlier this month on WEEI by Boston 2024 CEO Rich Davey that public money would only be needed for security appear to contradict what the bid book says the public responsibility will be.
And while Boston Mayor Martin Walsh told the Dorchester Reporter last month that taxpayer funds would “absolutely” be required for infrastructure, no one had gone on the record to say the full faith and credit of the city or a state agency/authority would be required to buy land. Though Boston 2024 says a private source would be found to pay the debt service on the land purchases, taxpayers would be left holding the bag if that private funding source falls through.
Boston 2024 officials, who were in Lausanne, Switzerland, on Wednesday, talking with International Olympic Committee officials about their bid, also seemed to be a tad misleading to USOC folks who decided who would carry the torch for the US. Under the section titled “Transport Challenges,” the organizers said the biggest hurdles will be moving people around the city during the construction and adapting the rail system for climate change. No mention of the myriad of MBTA and commuter rail problems. Think that might have earned at least a footnote or a rewrite after this winter?
Boston 2024 spokeswoman Erin Murphy Rafferty says the withholding of information came at the behest of the USOC, which asked Boston officials to not release “a limited amount of proprietary information… because they believe it will put Boston and the United States at a competitive disadvantage.” Perhaps they need to be a little more concerned about the disadvantage they face at home. Their bid book certainly recognizes the problem.
“Given recent media reports about large-scale sporting events and the financial impacts on their host communities, people in Massachusetts and Boston are in need of a realistic education about the costs of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” they wrote.
Yes, they are.
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