The city of Boston’s fourth public meeting on the 2024 Summer Olympic Games took a familiar turn on Tuesday night in Roxbury as the four-hour forum grew testy. A few new pieces of information did materialize over the sometimes tense assembly.
Plans for a one-day equestrian event to be staged at the Franklin Park Golf Course would only utilize spaces off the course’s fairways, a change made after a March meeting between Boston 2024 and Franklin Park advocates.
Boston 2024 CEO Rich Davey also added that in response to the meeting with the advocates, a number of private nonprofits had stepped forward to say they will provide maintenance for a proposed Olympic swimming pool that would be available for public use after the Games.
Davey also introduced another benchmark for the Olympics timeline: “Sometime this summer,” he said, “Boston 2024 will release an updated venue plan for the public to scrutinize.” Davey added that community meetings such as Tuesday night’s would help to inform that updated plan.
While giving a brief update on plans for a temporary stadium located at Widett Circle, Davey noted that under the plan New Boston Food Market would be “relocated” ahead of the Games. Davey also told the audience that Boston 2024 intends to use $75 million over the next two years to refine and market the city’s pitch to the International Olympic Committee before the 2017 deadline for the final proposal to host the Games.
John FitzGerald, who serves as the liaison between Boston 2024 and the city of Boston, moderated Tuesday night’s meeting, which drew more than 200 people to an auditorium on the campus of Roxbury Community College. By the end of the meeting shortly after 10 p.m., the number had dwindled to roughly 50 people.
On stage for Boston 2024 were Corey Dinopoulos, the former MassART student whose thesis project nine years ago became the building blocks for the Boston 2024 effort, along with Olympic rower Tracy Brown, Davey, and general counsel Paige Scott Reed.
This was Dinopoulos’ first appearance on the panel and he began the presentation by explaining how he began sending letters to elected officials about his thesis project on the Olympics three years ago. State Sen. Eileen Donoghue was one of the few to reply, Dinopoulos said: She then kicked off the special study on the Games’ feasibility, which finished in late 2013 and concluded it was possible to host the Games. That study led to the formation of Boston 2024.
Reed was also a newcomer to the 2024 civic meeting roll-out. She laid out 2024’s “localization strategy” that would ensure communities like Roxbury, Mattapan, and Dorchester benefit from the Games.
“It’s not going to be accidental who participates in the Games,” Reed said, referring to the businesses and contracts involved in preparing the city for the events. “We are going to make sure people in those communities now have access to training and skills so they are qualified and able to be part of the success when the Games come to Boston.”
Former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson, who took to the mic to ask questions of the panel during the meeting, contested Reed’s claims. “This doesn’t make any sense to me. A workforce development initiative in this community has never worked,” she said.
Things turned heated as Wilkerson rebuffed mentions of her name by Reed and other members of the panel as though someone at Boston 2024 had consulted her about the bid. “I've heard my name six times up on the podium like I'm involved. But I'm not,” Wilkerson said as she began speaking.
Later, Reed cut in: “Can I respond?” “When I’m done,” Wilkerson shot back.
A handful of community members who spoke up at the meeting called for 2024 to bring Wilkerson into the organization. “I don't see no Diane Wilkersons,” said Benjamin Jackson of Roxbury. “But they go to the pastors that come to us to pimp us for their votes.”
Jackson added that while this was not his first community meeting, “I have no more clarity than I did four months ago. There would be more people on board if they had any understanding if what they were signing up for.”
FitzGerald agreed. “It’s difficult for me, too. I don’t have all the answers,” he said.
The next city-sponsored community meeting is scheduled for Tues., May 19, at 6:30 p.m. at the Cleveland Community Center in Fields Corner.