Thank goodness, it’s over. No 2024 Olympics based in Boston, and it is to be hoped, no more surly confrontations between the pros and the cons, no more nattering about details and semi-details about something that would have had to evolve over nine years’ time, and no more red herrings being dumped into arguments as community and individual constituencies called for immediate attention to their needs and wants and fears centered on a dozen days in Boston and the region in the summer of 2024.
There was a lot of dancing on the grave of 2024’s carcass this week. The exquisite joy that some found in the aftermath of its demise was curious, but oh so Boston, a small-town place in the big picture where cynics, many but not all doing what they believe is their civic duty and not just their personal preference, readily crushed those who dared to think blue-sky thoughts. The usual scenario prevailed: a pooh-poohing of the suggestion right off the bat because it hadn’t been fully formed and ready for launching from the get-go; then a rat-a-tat of ridicule on a daily basis, then an all-in with full-fury rhetoric against any who saw some value in the proposal.
It’s so easy to rile up the folks these days when social media and talk radio blowhards’ high-pitched assertions are added to the relentless attack by opponents and their journalist associates.
In all, this short but intense episode was an ego trip, the playing out of a haughty Boston cliche: We occupy a special place on the world stage, and we don’t need something like an Olympics to validate how very special we are.
Having the Games in the ancient bailiwick of the Puritans was a long shot at best, it seems to me, and I, like Mayor Walsh, would have balked at guaranteeing the public purse to pay for left-over costs. What I was hoping for from January on was an orderly civil conversation about all aspects of the proposal and at the end of the summer a consensus decision by the citizenry and their leaders as to an up or down call.
What we got was a free-for-all, the aspects of which were summarily captured in the rancorous and off-putting televised debate of last week.
Yes, the times they are always a-changin’. The Brahmin set that dominated Boston a century-and-a-half ago and maneuvered the Back Bay into place didn’t think small; they just did it over the course of four decades of preparation and 25 years of filling in 450 acres of tidal flats from 1857 to 1882. One hundred years later, we got the Big Dig, a hugely expensive 25-year-long remaking of the downtown inner city that was marked by a lengthy and cantankerous public discourse and all manner of ups and downs – and injuries and death –in the construction phase. But the work proceeded and Boston is immeasurably fresher today for its residents and those who come here to work or visit.
It took but seven months for the naysayer collective to demolish the Boston 2024 dream.
Yes, the introduction of the proposal was badly run out, with lots of stumbles and confusion. But instead of everyone saying, “Hold it; let’s take some time to come up with a reasonable way to present the proposal for consideration with all its promises and likely warts,” Boston 2024’s backers were subjected to a constant enfilade of criticism and skepticism that I am sure left them exasperated and exhausted. But still they pressed on, until last Monday.
Good for them for reaching for their dream.