Boston 2024 Wants a Statewide Ballot Referendum

The group's poll numbers have lagged, but it wants to put the Boston Olympics to a vote next year anyway.

Associated Press

Associated Press

On Monday, Boston 2024, the committee organizing the city’s Olympics bid, ran ads in Boston’s newspapers declaring that the bid would go forward only with support from a majority of the people in Massachusetts. Just how and when that majority would be measured, though, remained undefined.

Other groups have already begun working to put a vote on the Olympic Games on next year’s ballot. Some of us suspected that Boston 2024’s language meant it didn’t want to measure majority support using a ballot initiative (which would leave out, for instance, those Massachusetts residents aged under 18 who tend to support the Olympics at higher rates—teenagers are people, too!) Better, perhaps, to use polling or some other means.

Not so! The group issued a press release Tuesday to clarify that not only would they welcome a statewide referendum, they’re going to gather the signatures for it themselves. Boston 2024 Chairman John Fish, speaking to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce Tuesday morning, said this:

Boston 2024 is announcing today that we will gather signatures to put Boston’s Olympic and Paralympic bid to a statewide vote in November of 2016. Prior to this vote we will be working with the people of Boston and Massachusetts to build the best bid possible – one that reflects the best of our state and the Olympic and Paralympic movement. Then, the people of Massachusetts can make the final decision on whether we have achieved those goals.”

The stakes are high. “No” votes on referenda have scuttled bids in other cities, and recent polls of Boston-area voters suggest support has waned far below 50 percent in recent months. (There’s less recent polling on statewide opinion.) Boston 2024, though, is banking on the fact that it has a lot of time before its bid would come up for a vote, time to sway those for whom the memory of the T’s wintertime struggles remains all too fresh.

And anyway, the stakes are high no matter how Boston 2024 chooses to measure its majority support. The International Olympic Committee will follow public approval closely as it decides which city it will award the games, going so far as to conduct their own polling. Fish seems to recognize that, saying, “The [IOC] doesn’t want to bring the Games to an area where they are not wanted.” Boston 2024 has to convince people of the wisdom in its bid. A statewide vote will give them a galvanizing timeline in which to do so.