July 27, 2015
Boston’s Olympic flame–or the aspiration to light it in the summer of 2024–was extinguished on Monday afternoon when the US Olympic Committee and Boston 2024 announced that they would be jointly ending Boston’s bid to host the Games.
Members of the Dorchester delegation signaled support for Mayor Martin Walsh, who kicked off Monday morning with a surprise press conference declaring that he would not sign the host city contract without seeing the text of the agreement first. The host city contract, required by the International Olympic Committee, would “put the city on the hook for cost overruns,” Walsh told reporters. “If committing to signing the guarantee today is what is required to move forward, then Boston is no longer pursuing the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
State Rep. Russell Holmes was a vocal supporter of the Games last month as organizers behind Boston’s bid announced that Franklin Field’s Harambee Park and Sportsmen’s Tennis Association would be tennis venues for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Dorchester green space and facility are in his district.
Holmes said Walsh’s stand was “right in line” with his thinking. “I don’t think his passion for the Games has changed, I just think he’s putting a cap on the risk,” Holmes told the Reporter moments before news broke that the Boston bid was dead. “He’s making the best deal for the city.”
After learning the USOC and Boston 2024 were ending the bid, Holmes was reflective. “I’m disappointed but now I question, can we do big things?” Holmes said. “Can this country do big things anymore? We have to start asking ourselves--can we do big things or are we doing incremental improvements?”
“I think the mayor and the governor did a great service to us by sticking to their guns,” said State Rep. Dan Hunt, whose Dorchester district includes Columbia Point–the site of the proposed athletes village, JFK/UMass Station, and Kosciuszko Circle.
On Friday, the Associated Press reported that the USOC had given Baker an ultimatum to support the bid–something the governor denied in a press conference that day. Baker participated in the Monday morning call with the USOC, and told Reporters on Friday that he would hold off supporting or opposing the bid until an independent study of the bid could be completed by the Brattle Group. That report, commissioned by Baker, the Senate President, and the Speaker of the House, was due sometime in August.
“Over the weekend, the USOC wanted the mayor and the governor to sign off on something committing public money, which public wasn’t ready to do and it impeded the public process,” Hunt said. “I think it’s kind of telling of how they [the USOC] operate behind closed doors.”
Despite Monday’s outcome, many electeds praise the benefits of the extensive planning process as a result of the Games–which mapped out new mixed-use developments on Columbia Point and Widett Circle, a newly reconfigured Kosciuszko Circle on the Dorchester/South Boston line, and a re-designed bus platform at the JFK/UMass MBTA Station.
“As the mayor said from the beginning, this is going to spur conversation about economic development,” Hunt said. “A private group has just spent millions of private dollars on this plan and it’s free to us. We also have shown to the state that we need certain areas improved.”
Walsh, in Monday’s press conference, had similar thoughts.
“Millions of private dollars have been spent on extensive planning efforts for countless sites that hold untapped economic opportunity throughout the city that will be transformative,” he told reporters. “I look forward to continuing these conversations as we move forward with Imagine Boston 2030.”
Even Gov. Baker agreed that Boston 2024’s planning process would bring benefits specifically to economic development and transportation. “Some of the analysis in terms of the economic development proposals and transportation initiatives like the K-Circle piece, I think were pretty thoughtful and were things that we can learn from going forward,” he said at a press conference on Monday.
In the end, Walsh’s decision to push back against to the US Olympic Committee resonated.
“I applaud Mayor Walsh for taking a strong stance on behalf of the taxpayers of the city of Boston and on behalf of the future of our City," said State Rep. Dan Cullinane of Dorchester. "The discussion and decision on whether or not to host the Olympic Games should be about opportunities for the people of Boston and of Massachusetts and not about ultimatums by the USOC."
“I applaud Mayor Marty Walsh for sending a very clear message today about the city of Boston's position regarding the 2024 Olympics bid. I fully support him in this,” said State Sen. Linda Dorcena Forry. Her statement, issued before the bid was pulled from Boston, concluded: “I still believe that the Olympics bid has the potential to benefit the city of Boston and the region, but it must come with assurances that city and state tax dollars would not be required to guarantee cost overruns or other expenses related to the operations of the Games.”
Monday morning, Walsh said he did not regret the city’s pursuit of a Boston Games. “There’s a potential there that we can develop Widett Circle. Harbor Point, Columbia Point, which we can develop six thousand units of housing in line with the housing plan. At Harambee Park, there is a redesign of Harambee Park with Sportsmen’s Tennis to really enliven that park. These are regrets I will not have as far as this conversation.”