There’s An Olympic-Sized Feud Happening About Boston as Host City

Three groups are lobbying for three different outcomes for the Olympic Games.

They say there are two sides to every story, but in the case of the Olympics coming to Boston, there are three.

As the 2014 Olympics wind down in Sochi, Russia, members of three groups are trying to rally support in each of their respective corners to try and convince residents in Massachusetts that either the Olympics are a horrible idea, the Olympics should be held here in 2024, or that the state should opt for a winter bid in 2026 instead.

Boston has been visibly divided on the concept of the state leveraging resources for an opportunity to toss its hat into the proverbial Olympic-bidding ring for the summer Olympics in a decade. And now the discussion seems to be expanding—at least on social media.

First, there’s the newly formed grassroots movement known as “No Boston Olympics,” which has been interacting with supporters of hosting the games in Boston, detailing reasons why the move might not be in Massachusetts’ best interests. The group, made up of former gubernatorial sidekicks and economics professionals, markets itself as an entity that’s “…by and for Bostonians who think there just maybe kinda [sic] might be better ways to invest public resources than on a three-week party.”

“No Boston Olympics” plans to put out a public press release next week, the same time that the state-commissioned committee tasked with looking at the feasibility of Boston being the central point for the 2024 Summer Olympics is set to release their study on why the event could happen here.

Then, on the other end of the spectrum, there’s a second local organization pushing equally as hard to get their message out, highlighting reasons why Boston should skip the sweaty, summertime games in the next decade, and instead, host the 2026 Winter Games in the Bay State.

“It’s not necessarily a ‘winter versus summer’ thing, it’s looking at what’s doable,” said Scott Cavanaugh, who launched the website and Twitter account for Boston Winter Olympics 2026. “We just think that Massachusetts is better suited to host the Winter Olympics, instead. There’s no guarantee of either happening, but New England does winters.”

As the arguments for each opinion press on, and the deadline to find out if the U.S. Olympics Committee will choose Boston, or another city, as the host for 2024, we reached out to the driving forces behind all three groups to hear their opinions on why their plan may be best:

How About No Boston Olympics?

Chris Dempsey thinks there are more important things state officials could pump money and resources into rather than focus on bringing the Olympics to the city. “Boston being a really good place to live in, and work, we think this is a really bad idea. We want to shift the conversation back to important issues like addressing inner city violence, health care costs, and job growth—the really, truly important issues. The Olympics are a real distraction from what will make Boston and Massachusetts a great place to live over the next two decades,” he said.

His group, for now, is small. The following on Twitter is minimal, too. But Dempsey has been active in attending meetings about the push for the Olympics in Boston, and has been engaging in constructive conversations with organizers of the other two groups that want to host the games.

He said next week, ahead of the state committee’s report on the possibility of an Olympic bid, they will release information detailing reasons the games should stay away from here.

Dempsey outlined the obviously high costs that have seemingly plagued other countries when building new infrastructures in an effort to support the games and the athletes. He said the burden of some of the budget will inevitably have to be carried by constituents, too. “Direct costs could be spent on priorities like the MBTA and school resources. Anything that makes life better day-to-day in Massachusetts,” he said.

He said it would also take away from the next governor’s other priorities while overseeing state operations. “There are so many things in government we need to get better and to improve. When you put something like the Olympics in front of them it becomes a huge distraction,” said Dempsey, adding he appreciates the efforts that have been made to get the Olympics to Boston, but disagrees with the reasons why. “We are hoping to begin our efforts to demonstrate this is not the right way to go. We are hoping the other groups will engage us on that and be willing to have a forum and dialogue with people who have seen the impact of the games in other cities.”

Forget Summer. How About Boston Winter Olympics 2026?

Nearly two years ago, Scott Cavanaugh had an idea: A chance to have the U.S. host the Olympics was opening up, finally, and what better place to let skiers and snowboarders hit the slopes than in a place where the snow falls in plentiful amounts.

“I think we are just better suited. If you think about the complaints you have heard, people say Boston isn’t big enough for the summer games. But if you look at other Olympic hosts for the winter games, we would be the largest city to host,” he said.

The concept is just that. But in the last few weeks, as the deadline nears on the discussion about the summer bid, Cavanaugh said things have really ramped up, and his accompanying website and Twitter handle have gained interest. “We have just started to pick back up the last couple weeks. This past couple weeks it has just really blown up. Traffic on the website is up, and obviously the Olympics going on now has provided some driving interest,” he said.

Unlike “No Boston Olympics,” however, Cavanaugh isn’t opposed to the summer games—he just believes that elected officials and the Olympic committee on Beacon Hill should do their due diligence, and rather than explore just one opportunity, they should look at both options.

“We have no legislative support at this time, but we are looking for the legislative and business leaders to champion this to bring this up, too,” he said, adding that he has engaged in conversation with both the folks behind the 2024 proposition, and Dempsey. “I think it makes sense, we should open it to what the best option could be. If the U.S. doesn’t win 2024, we could look at 2026. If we are spending time and taxpayer money, lets really do that and look at all of our options. I think it would make sense to modify the committee.”

Cavanaugh and his co-creators of the 2026 concept claim Boston—and the surrounding New England area—are a better fit for winter sports because of the amount of space available in the mountains nearby. “I feel like winter makes a lot more sense when you look at the cost and infrastructure,” he said. “The winter has so much to offer that’s already here.”

The 2026 games would also fall on the birthdate of America, and what better spot to celebrate 250 years of American culture than the state that everything started in? But of course, right now, there is already a group that has a leg up in the bidding wars, with a lot of support behind them.

Forget Both of Those Ideas. Lets Do It In 2024.

Officials from the U.S. Olympics Committee have already visited Boston to talk about why the city would be a good fit for a bid in the summer of 2024. A committee has been formed at the state level and hosted multiple meetings with elected officials and Boston residents—not to mention architects, public safety experts, and representatives of the London games—to hash out arguments on both sides of the issue. Former Governor Mitt Romney has also given the thumbs up.

That’s why Corey Dinopoulos, cofounder of the Boston 2024 Olympics committee, isn’t too worried about the competition against the concept. “The Olympics are the Olympics. Both our teams are in love with the sport and think it would be a great city to host them, we just have disagreements when it comes to which one,” said Dinopoulos. “Personally, and I feel bad saying it, but I don’t see Olympic courses on Loon Mountain. Our East Coast skiing is not Olympic-caliber, and not to say our mountains suck, but we are no competition to Denver.”

Dinopoulos also said hosting the winter games would require working with other states like Vermont or New Hampshire to make use of their resources for certain sporting events. “It’s hard enough to control a budget in your own state, but when you are working with other states it starts to get really complicated. It’s not like you can start busing hundreds of people back and forth, or build a rail line from here to New Hampshire. To me, the winter seems a little more like a fantasy,” he said.

As for the new group pounding the pavement in opposition of the Olympics? “I mean, they have 36 followers, we have like 3,000. We are working with a strategy group on getting more followers, and we are working with the community to get passionate people out there talking about it. To be quite honest, they don’t faze me at all,” said Dinopoulos. “In any endeavor, there will always be pushing against you. But there’s no reason to derail other people’s dreams. Focus on your positives, and we will focus on ours—you shouldn’t focus your efforts on shutting other people down.”

Dinopoulos’s idea to gain traction for a bid in Boston started as a project in 2006 for college, and then was reborn during the London games in 2012. He thought Boston would be perfect, so he lobbied an elected official—Senator Eileen Donoghue, of Lowell—who was able to turn that idea into a bill that eventually led to a full-on committee tasked with studying the pros and cons of playing host city. That committee’s report is due out next week.

Now What?

Besides Boston, Los Angeles, Dallas, Philadelphia, and San Francisco have all expressed interest in hosting the games in 2024, and while the U.S. Olympics Committee has all but said they will make a bid, there are still some serious hurdles to overcome for the Bay State’s chances alone.

Dinopoulos describes it like a beauty pageant. “You have to win Miss America, and after that you have to win Miss Universe,” he said. “The U.S. doesn’t even know if they want to put forth a city for 2024. That’s where 2026 comes in. The U.S. can only choose one, it looks like they are putting their eggs in the summer basket, and they have been to Boston a couple times to have been conversations with the committee.”

The U.S. delegates have until 2015 to figure out if they will add their name for a chance to host the games, and if they do, they will then have to compete with other countries for the honor. “We have no idea how far along other U.S. cities are on the bidding process [for the first round of consideration], but we know San Francisco and D.C. will be the bigger contenders. And Dallas might be a hidden black horse.”

For now, it’s just a waiting game.

“But we think Boston has some pretty desirable aspects,” said Dinopoulos.

POLL: Should Boston host the Olympics?