Hosting the Olympics can transcend sport and unite a city, but first come the hurdles of infrastructure, security, and billion dollar budgets. Theses challenges turn an Olympic bid into a marathon, and the City of Boston is currently wrestling with these public issues. Boston Globe reporters Joan Vennochi and Joanna Weiss recently joined SCI TV to discuss the aspirations and potential problems of a Boston Olympics bid for 2024.
Idea Behind Boston Olympics
Vennochi and Weiss have been covering Boston’s Olympic stirrings from the organizing committee’s initial talks with the U.S. Olympic Committee to the current debates and public opinion approaching the November 2016 ballot referendum.
“The idea is how do you use the Olympics to better the city in the long run,” Weiss said. “The question from opponents is how do you do that without having taxpayers holding the bag in the end?”
Skepticism over Costs and Process
Polling data from National Public Radio affiliate WBUR and MassInc showed 51% of Boston voters supported the Olympic bid in January, but only 36% were in favor by March. That number steadied to 40% approval in April.
Boston is known as a very politically engaged city with a historical tradition of questioning every issue, especially those that involve big public expenditures.
“There is a lot of scepticism about the cost,” Vennochi said. “(Boston2024) was totally unprepared for the idea that people weren’t going to embrace this and pick up the torch and run down to Boston Common. Do we need an Olympics to say we’re world class? Some people say no.”
A Host of Public Concerns
Vennochi and Weiss see a weak case for hosting the Olympics, lack of grassroots effort, and skepticism around the organizing committee’s finances. A changing political landscape with a new governor hasn’t helped the initial bid either.
Weiss thinks the skepticism around Boston2024’s money can be summed up as “well connected people feeding each other but maybe not benefiting the public.”
Vennochi describes the public process and debate as “doing it backwards,” the committee taking plans to communities without soliciting and listening to new ideas.
How to Shift Momentum?
Both Globe reporters think that to shift the tide Boston2024 will need to show solid financial numbers, better listening to community concerns, and more operational transparency.
Those changes will need to bring poll numbers above 50% by the referendum in November 2016 when voters will decide whether they want their city in consideration for the Olympics or not.
“They haven’t shown that what Boston needs is the same thing as what the Olympics want,” Vennochi said. “They really have to win hearts and minds and they have a ways to go on that.”