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Boston’s Olympic Bid Meets An Early Death Without The Support Of Bostonians

CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK
CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK

Boston’s troubled effort to host the 2024 Summer Olympics has come to an end, the U.S. Olympic Committee announced Monday.

“We have not been able to get a majority of the citizens of Boston to support hosting the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said in a statement. “Therefore, the USOC does not think that the level of support enjoyed by Boston’s bid would allow it to prevail over great bids from Paris, Rome, Hamburg, Budapest or Toronto.”

The announcement follows a hastily assembled Monday morning press conference, in which Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said that despite pressure from the USOC, he would not sign an agreement that would leave taxpayers on the hook for any cost overruns associated with hosting the Olympics, adding that the city would be willing to pull its bid over the matter.

“I cannot commit to putting the taxpayers at risk,’’ Walsh said. “If committing to sign a guarantee today is what’s required to move forward, then Boston is no longer pursuing the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

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Monday’s decision was met with relief from the broad coalition of residents who have been fighting the bid since the beginning. “We were very pleased to hear the news that the USOC has finally decided to pull Boston’s bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics,” Jonathan Cohn, co-founder of the opposition group No Boston 2024, told ThinkProgress via email. “This victory for the people of Boston is the result of tireless work of numerous activists and residents across the city, region, and state speaking up against this anti-democratic land grab.”

Boston’s Olympic bid had been in peril for several months. A well-organized opposition movement, featuring groups like No Boston 2024 and No Boston Olympics, has been at work for some time, hosting community meetings and seeking to engage residents and local lawmakers on the detrimental effects facing potential host cities.

The latest WBUR poll found 53 percent of residents in the Greater Boston area, and 50 percent of those in the Boston area, were opposed to hosting the Olympics.

The anti-Olympics efforts clearly had their desired result, despite Walsh’s characterization of the movement during Monday’s press conference: “The opposition for the most part is about 10 people on Twitter and a couple people out there who are constantly beating the drumbeat,” he said.

The financial risk associated with hosting the Games was one of the most prominent opposition arguments and it’s easy to see where that concern originates: “Sober analysis of past experience with the Games shows that every Olympic host has suffered cost overruns — and the average cost overrun for the summer Games since 1976 is 252 percent (adjusted for inflation),” Andrew Zimbalist, Smith College professor and prominent sports economist, wrote recently.

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Host cities frequently underestimate costs to gain public approval and when the final price tag exceeds those predictions, it’s taxpayers who are left to foot the bill. As Zimbalist pointed out, the initial projections for the cost of the 2012 Olympics in London was $6 billion. “The final bill came to more than $18 billion — almost 90 percent of which came from the public coffers.” The most recent Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia cost an estimated $50 billion, making them the costliest Olympic Games in history.

Attention now turns to Los Angeles, which came in a close second to Boston in the competition to be the American representative. Washington, D.C. and San Francisco were the other two cities in the running. “It has been no secret that Los Angeles would be ready and willing to mount a bid on short notice,” the LA Times reported Monday.