Cambridge Officials Oppose Olympic Bid

The unease with Boston 2024 spreads across the river.

Cambridge/Boston photo By Bill Damon on Flickr

Cambridge/Boston photo By Bill Damon on Flickr

People in Boston aren’t the only ones protesting the way the process to put in a bid for the city to host the Olympics was handled. On the other side of the Charles River, Cambridge officials are also throwing the flag.

“We don’t understand a thing [about the bid], and we want people to know we are not just going to roll over,” said Cambridge City Councilor Dennis Carlone. “I’m generally an optimist, but I see no plan, no strategy, and no real communication about this.”

On Monday night during a meeting at City Hall, Carlone and other members of the City Council voted in favor of supporting a policy order making it known that they’re unpleased with how Boston 2024, the organization that compiled information and submitted the bid to the United States Olympic Committee last month, went ahead with their plan.

By voting in favor of the order, the Council went on record in opposition of the bid, based on the fact that they felt the submission process lacked broad community discussion and deliberation, and excluded stakeholders from surrounding communities that would be impacted were the Olympics to be held in Boston.

Carlone said he endorsed the policy order because “in [his] gut” he feels that preparing for the Olympics will take more than 10 years, and Cambridge mostly felt left out of the initial process to put the region in the running, a decision that would impact the city due to its proximity to Boston, and shared use of facilities and public transportation options like the T.

“I didn’t endorse the Olympic bid because I have no idea what it is,” said Carlone. “It sounds exciting, but do we really have the facilities? I don’t think so. If we go for this, it needs more time, and perhaps 2024 is much too optimistic. I think that some of it sounds dreamy.”

The Council’s vote unintentionally coincided with a protest held outside of the ICA in Boston on Monday night, where the Boston Globe hosted a forum and discussion about the bid, and potential impact on the area if the USOC decides to make Boston a frontrunner. Boston is up against San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., and the USOC is expected to vote on their host city to represent the U.S. sometime in December, with the announcement to follow in January.

According to the State House News Service, during the forum, Juliette Kayyem, a member of the Boston 2024 executive board who worked on the bid’s innovation and technology proposal, said the bid is still in its early stages, and promised the public would get to weigh in more heavily in the event the USOC selects the city as the country’s submission for the summer games.

When called out about the organization’s lack of transparency and community input by those opposing the games, Kayyem “defended the secrecy of the bid” because it’s competing with other potential host cities, the report said.

One day after they delivered the proposal to the USOC last month, Boston 2024 announced the formation of a citizens advisory group and online portal for public feedback, as part of a “new phase of an extensive outreach” to get the public involved with the historic proposal, but some felt the effort should have been made prior to the organization’s bid submission.

Kayyem also touted the benefits of hosting the Olympics would have on both Boston and surrounding municipalities, such as improved infrastructure and transportation, but Cambridge City Councilor Nadeem Mazen said that’s short-lived, and hard to quantify.

“I don’t think anyone opposes that, especially the infrastructure question, but that cannot come without the opacity, corruption, and in all cases waste that the Olympics entail,” he said. “It’s not just in Boston, it’s Greater Boston, and that’s clear. No one is making the argument that it’s going to be in Boston proper.”

Like Carlone, Mazen said he expected Boston 2024 to “come to City Councilors and key community leaders” to discuss the bid.

“They didn’t reach out to me, and I represent a lot of people who have concerns,” he added. “It would have been nice for [Boston 2024] to have a conversation with those groups that will be directly affected.”