Boston’s bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics is on life support.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced at a hastily thrown together Monday press conference that he will not commit to signing a host city agreement if it includes any language that places taxpayers on the hook. The announcement comes after the USOC recently turned up the heat on Walsh and Governor Charlie Baker to put their political weight behind the 2024 Summer Olympics, in the form of a pledge to sign a host city agreement.
The USOC, along with Boston 2024, has been adamant that any Olympic bid requires a prospective host city to sign a commitment that puts taxpayers at risk for any problems or overruns. The taxpayer guarantee to the IOC is non-negotiable even in the aftermath of highly touted Agenda 2020 reforms.
“This is a commitment I cannot make without assurances that Boston and its residents will be protected. I refuse to mortgage the future of the city away, I refuse to put Boston on the hook for overruns and I refuse to commit to signing a taxpayer guarantee that uses taxpayer dollars for the Olympics,” Walsh said.
Walsh said he made his position on signing any kind of taxpayer guarantee clear to the USOC board when he met with them in San Francisco. He praised the bid’s vision and redevelopment potential, noting that millions have been spent on extensive planning efforts at undervalued sites around the city. Still, he said, the fate of the bid is in the USOC’s hands today.
“We’ll have to see what happens At this point the idea of hosting the Olympics, I still feel the same as I did three months ago, I think it’s an incredible opportunity for Boston,” Walsh said.
When asked if the thought the USOC was bullying him to commit to the guarantee he said, “They don’t bully me.”
According to people close to the bid, Walsh’s comments this morning are a sign that Boston 2024 is dead in the water.
During the press conference, Walsh needled the opposition to Boston 2024 when he described them as a small group of trolls on Twitter, a sign of how social media has played an oversized role in the debate about the games. Last week the head of communications for the USOC, Patrick Sandusky, quit social media after he engaged in a prolonged fight with opponents of the bid.
“The opposition are about ten people on Twitter and a couple people out there beating the drumbeat,” said Walsh. For months, polls have shown a majority of the public is opposed to hosting the games in Boston. Public opinion has been so bad for Boston 2024 organizers that their opponents are more popular than them.
Walsh said that opponents have pushed hearsay about the games, making it difficult for proponents of the games to have an honest discussion about what they could do for Boston. “I think when we have a chance to go out and talk to people that don’t have their mind up, when you have a chance to tell what the benefits are and what the Olympic movement is, people say ‘Oh I didn’t think of that,” Walsh said.
The growing chatter about pulling the Boston bid and giving the games to Los Angeles has rattled Walsh and proponents of the bid. Even though the USOC has said repeatedly that they are firmly behind Boston reports continue to trickle in that Los Angeles is prepared to pick up the pieces of Boston’s bid and host the games in 2024.
“I’m hearing too many other voices talking about L.A.,” Walsh said.
The USOC must submit a bid to the IOC by September 17.
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