Representatives of both sides of the debate over bringing the 2024 Summer Olympics to Boston stopped by WBZ-AM 1030’s Nightside Tuesday to spar over the beleaguered bid, just days before its revised plans are expected on Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk.
It was the first public discussion between Boston 2024 CEO Rich Davey and No Boston Olympics co-chair Chris Dempsey—former colleagues in Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration—in some time, though Davey said there had been a “few beer summits” in the time since. Both men began cordially before wading into a handful of contentious topics, from the use of taxpayer dollars, to long-term impacts on the region.
“At the end of the day, we’re a committee of folks who if we don’t think the bid makes sense, we’re not going to go forward,” Davey said of Boston 2024. “What we’ve seen and what we’re going to reveal in the next several days, our 2.0, we think it does make sense.”
“The U.S. Olympic Committee underestimated the people of Boston,” Dempsey said. “They thought that we were going to be so excited about the idea of the Games and sports in our town, because we are a fantastic sports town, that we would ignore some of the real costs associated with the Games.”
Host Dan Rea asked if the USOC would take action based on the poll data it has been gathering, if support for Boston 2024 is found to be too low. Davey said the information would be used solely for reference, and that the USOC has not issued the bid any sort of ultimatum.
Dempsey noted that every Olympics since 1960 has had cost overruns. “Chris isn’t wrong, but what he isn’t telling you is, they also had revenue overruns too,” Davey said. “Los Angeles brought in significantly more revenue than they budgeted for as well, so did Salt Lake City, so did Atlanta.”
“It’s fancy accounting,” Dempsey replied. “The IOC will tell you that Sochi had a profitable Games, that London had a profitable Games. In fact, London was three times over budget, and they just revised their budget upward and claimed that they had a surplus at the end.” Dempsey claimed that Boston 2024 has already moved $300 million of costs from its private budget for games operations to the public budget. This $300 million, Dempsey said, is for special highway lanes, chauffeurs, and buses for dignitaries.
“Transportation, in that instance, was a security cost, which we’ve been very clear about, Dan,” Davey said. “In order to pay for security, we need the federal government’s assistance. And that is happening for national special security events, the Democratic National Convention, for the Super Bowl.”
“So what you’re seeing is Boston 2024 saying ‘No money for games operations,’ but then they’re changing the definition of games operations over time and narrowing it, so that things that fall out of that bucket get paid for by the taxpayers,” Dempsey said.
A caller asked about the ballot question spearheaded by United Independent Party head Evan Falchuk, whose committee “Citizens For a Say” is still hammering out the question’s language with the Attorney General’s office. A draft of the question says the state shall not “directly or indirectly expend any funds, other than funds received from the federal government, issue any bonds, enter into any guarantees, or incur any other liability, indebtedness or obligation, to procure, aid, or remediate the effects of, the 2024 Olympics.”
“I would vote yes on that. Absolutely,” Davey said. “That’s totally in line with where we are, and in particular, we support the public having a chance to vote.”
— Evan Falchuk (@efalchuk) June 24, 2015
When Rea asked what Dempsey et all would like most about the second iteration of the bid, Davey said: “That we are still not asking for taxpayer dollars. Still.”
“I’m curious about the taxpayer guarantee,” Dempsey interjected, “and that’s a question we’ve brought up a couple times now, and I don’t think we’ve gotten an answer out of Rich on it. Will they be asking Mayor Walsh to sign the standard IOC contract that asks for the taxpayer guarantee?”
“That will be unclear,” Davey said. “We don’t know what the guarantee will be yet. But the bottomline is, as Steve Pagliuca said in the Globe the other day, we’re not going to get this risk to zero. So our job is to make sure that guarantee, if signed, is never called upon, period.”
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