Boston 2024: The Winners and Losers
In the seven months between Boston’s winning, and subsequently losing, the United State’s Olympic Committee’s blessing, all kinds of people got sucked into its orbit. Of those people, some emerged victorious, while others were clear losers. Given that dealing with the bid required an Olympic effort, let’s now award some medals—or none at all—to those involved.
Chris Dempsey, Kelley Gossett, and Liam Kerr
On a shoestring budget, No Boston Olympics took down the deep-pocketed power brokers of the city—a collection of well–heeled political consultants and corporate might. Will Dempsey and Gossett be able to find jobs similar to what they had before they challenged the city’s captains of industry? Maybe, but they’ll definitely land political work somewhere after this victory.
Nothing had a bigger effect on the 2024 Olympic conversation than the monthly polling conducted by WBUR and MassINC. They drove the discussion around the Olympics without becoming a part of it. Steve Koczela consistently delivered impressive and thorough data for the public to dive into.
Gov. Charlie Baker
No politician played this thing better from start to finish than Baker. The governor kept the Olympic plan at arm’s length for months while public support for the bid gradually ebbed. Baker came out looking like a fiscal genius when he waited until the release of the Brattle Report to decide whether or not he would back a taxpayer guarantee for the project. His approval rating remains sky high.
Robin Jacks, Jonathan Cohn, and No Boston 2024
The group comprised remnants of the Occupy Boston movement and other hard-left activists—now known as #10PeopleOnTwitter, thanks to Mayor Walsh—were relentless foot soldiers in the battle against the Games. What they lacked in money and access, they made up for in tenaciousness. They packed every Boston 2024 community meeting run by the City’s Olympics liaison, John Fitzgerald, and overwhelmed the Boston social media world with an anti-Olympics message that drove the news cycle. Their social media assault on the Olympics was personal and caustic at times and clearly got under the skin of some backers. In a small town like Boston, it was a very useful tactic.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo
The speaker has always been steadfastly protective of the state’s fiscal situation, sometimes to a fault. Of the Big Three, however, he showed his hand the most, expressing his frustration with the process and his concerns about exposing to taxpayers to risk. DeLeo smartly inoculated his membership on the Olympics issue when he allowed the latest budget to include language that gave the legislature significant oversight over the Games.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh
Polls don’t lie. Walsh’s citywide favorability never dropped below 63 percent, a number most pols would kill for in our era of division and hyperpartisanship. Time will tell how this difficult period of the Walsh years is remembered, but for now, he’ll be seen as the guy who stood up for his city in the face of bullying from the USOC. Walsh got out in front of this end of the Olympic bid before it was sent to the woodshed by the USOC. While attentive observers and the media saw it as a slightly hollow gesture, the public at-large may have seen it as smart.
Widett Circle Property Owners
Who knows when Widett Circle property owners’ payday will come, if ever. The prospect of an Olympic stadium rising there, and the subsequent creation of a brand-new neighborhood blandly named Midtown was exciting. But without the Olympics catalyst, it’s hard to envision a project of that magnitude happening in the next ten years. The rough concept for how to do it though has been drawn up.
With the Olympic bid’s collapse, the United Independent Party’s leader loses a huge opportunity. A prolonged battle over a ballot question would have helped the gubernatorial hopeful raise the profile of his new faction and himself. There would have been televised debates, events, and rallies. Falchuk would have been everywhere, but now the issue he latched onto is dead. It’s a boo-ray for him.
Amidst a deluge of predictable negativity from nearly every commentator in the city, Leung stood out as the lone voice in favor of the games. Leung created an uproar when her open letter explaining the behavior of Boston residents to the USOC was splashed prominently in the Globe. Love her or hate her, you had to read her.
Like Falchuk, Jackson used the Olympics as an opportunity to look out for his constituents while positively boosting his public profile. Jackson landed a few days’ worth of upbeat media coverage painting him as a champion of transparency and open government. Though rumors are swirling around the councilor regarding a possible mayoral campaign in 2017, his 2015 reelection in District 7 is all but guaranteed against a weak field.
Did Not Finish
The USOC picked Boston over three other probably more suitable hosts for the 2024 Summer Olympics. Perhaps the pitch to the USOC board was straight out of the Don Draper playbook, but when it came time to deliver, Boston was nowhere near what it promised. After seven months, they managed to torpedo their mistake, but their unwillingness to cut their losses sooner may prevent them from bringing back the Olympics to the United States after a 22-year absence this time around.
The Deval Patrick Administration
The birth and death of Boston 2024 was an epilogue of sorts to Patrick’s administration. The organization was filled with people connected to Patrick, but in the end they were unable to recreate the magic that twice catapulted him into the State House. Even the former governor himself was unable to escape unscathed.
The International Olympic Committee
The immortal Charlie Pierce titled his requiem for Boston 2024 “Boston Tells Olympics to Get Bent.” It’s a short but scorching takedown. Boston’s rejection of the Olympics is not a reflection of the city, but on the broader Olympic movement. The IOC, Pierce writes, is seen by many as “FIFA with Rhythmic Gymnasts.” The Olympics are becoming events that can be hosted in two places: authoritarian countries and places with all the facilities already in place. When Boston told the USOC and IOC to go pound sand, it was a black eye on them—not the city.