How Boston 2024 Used the ‘Miracle on Ice’ to Sell Its Doomed Bid

The United States' improbable victory over the Soviets turns 36 today.
Photo via AP

Photo via AP

Thirty-six years ago today, the United States men’s ice hockey team defeated a heavily favored juggernaut of a Soviet squad at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, on the way to their first gold medal in 20 years. It was David and Goliath. It was a proxy war for a Cold War growing colder by the day.

It was precisely the kind of narrative Boston 2024 organizers were looking to cash in on. Unbeknownst to them, however, they would soon land on the wrong side of another miracle.

The folks behind the bid to bring the 2024 Summer Olympics to Boston—and for a brief time, across the entire commonwealth—sought to tap into the same patriotism aroused with every replay of Al Michaels’ legendary call of the game’s final moments, or rerun of Disney’s Miracle. Mike Eruzione and Dave Silk, both Boston University alums and heroes of the 1980 team, were among the Olympians on the guestlist for Boston 2024’s soiree at Blazing Paddles in October 2014, as well as their teammate and Braintree native Ralph Cox. (Mayor Marty Walsh and Governor Deval Patrick were in attendance as well, and free parking was provided by the Red Sox.)

Around this time last year, vice president of strategic initiatives Amy Sennett reached out to fellow organizers with a list of tweaks for an upcoming presentation, detailed in emails obtained via public records request. It includes avoiding “mentioning volunteers positions in the same answer as jobs,” as well as a canned answer to any questions regarding transit, which contained a curious bit of foreshadowing, given what the Brattle Report determined would be the public’s role in bearing responsibility for the Boston 2024’s financials.

Boston 2024 Miracle on Ice email

Director of Sport and the Community Ingrid Oelschlager reminded the team that the South Shore’s own Dave Silk, winger for the Miracle on Ice team, would be speaking at that night’s presentation, and wondered if they could add a little stars-and-stripes razzle-dazzle.

Boston 2024 Miracle on Ice email

“Should we have a slide up with a picture of the 1980 US Hockey Team’s winning moment while he is at the mic?” Oelschlager wrote. “See the attached example, in which you can see the back of Silk’s jersey.”

“Agree that we should use the Dave Silk image but reminder that we need to use images for which we have a legal license,” Sennet replied. “We have [a] Getty image contract so contact me if you need images. I have a very similar Miracle on Ice image for you.”

The following night, Silk held aloft his gold medal and told the crowd: “What struck me more than anything was this [Lake Placid] is where dreams came true. This is where miracles happened. This is a hallowed ground. For generations to come, this isn’t just a winter wonderland. This is an Olympic village that spawned dreams and careers and made lives and changed lives. Through sports, incredible things can happen, personally collectively and to whole communities.”

In June, Eruzione appeared in a promotional video for Boston 2024, speaking over footage of children playing a not-at-all-staged game of street hockey on a rooftop somewhere in Boston. “Local kids who were given opportunities at a young age to play a game that led to something that was incredible. That’s what the Olympic Games are. It’s the stories about those types of athletes, and people feel a part of it. That’s what’s so special about the Games,” Eruzione says.

But by the following month, the bid would be dead, with millions and millions of debt. The grand irony here is that a seemingly unbeatable Boston 2024, with all its power and experience, was felled by a rag-tag band of amateurs.

Sound familiar?