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Residents Voice Concerns Over Boston Olympic Bid

Boston 2024 representatives addressed more than 200 residents from the Greater Boston area Tuesday regarding the city’s bid to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. Attendees raised concerns about financial transparency and community tradeoffs, among other issues.

This meeting was the third of nine monthly community meetings that invite the public to discuss the potential impact of the Games on the city. The meetings are hosted by Boston 2024, the group promoting the city’s bid.

Signs of Opposition
In response to a presentation from representatives of the Boston 2024 Olympic Committee, several members of the audience raise signs opposing the games Tuesday evening. The meeting, held at the Harvard Business School, was one of many planned by Olympic Boston 2024 to solicit community feedback.

Nikko Mendoza, vice president of engagement and external affairs for Boston 2024, said during the meeting that the bid would advance only in the case of support from a majority of Massachusetts residents. A Massachusetts referendum in 2016 will determine public support.

A number of residents expressed concerns about the possibility of hosting the Games in Boston. Residents mentioned what they called suspect financial accounting, financial tradeoffs with state funds for public schools, the impact on affordable housing and homelessness rates, the lack of a line item for the renovation of public spaces, and a lack of transparency throughout the Olympic bid process. Additionally, the lack of information on the Game’s funding through public-private partnerships left citizens feeling anxious, they said.

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Boston Redevelopment Authority product manager John Fitzgerald said that even though the City of Boston is “getting smarter about venues” as it conducts more research and evaluations, he identified continued concerns about environmental, fiscal, and social sustainability, as well as public transit for Boston 2024.

Fitzgerald said that the total budget for the Games was $9.1 billion. For comparison, London had originally budgeted $4.4 billion for the 2012 Olympics; ultimately the London Olympics cost over three times that initial estimate.

Fitzgerald also said the initial Boston proposal does not include plans for a traditional centralized Olympic sports campus. Rather, the BRA and Boston 2024 expect to take advantage of Boston’s existing transportation infrastructure.

Harvard in the Olympics
If Boston is chosen to host the 2024 Olympic Games, Harvard could host up to 10 events.

“We want to make the games the most walkable and accessible games ever,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald also emphasized the importance of the cooperation of universities in the Greater Boston area. Among other local universities, Harvard is included in plans as a host for Olympic events.  

Mendoza said that despite the organization’s hope to engage the community, Boston 2024 now recognizes that they have not yet done so sufficiently.

The potential for a lack of support threatens the viability of Boston’s hosting the 2024 Games. While Boston has already been selected as the United States’ bid, Olympic officials have spoken with Los Angeles and San Francisco about the feasibility of reviving bids from those cities in the case that Boston’s bid does not go forward.

—Staff writer Ignacio Sabate can be reached at ignacio.sabate@thecrimson.com . Follow him on Twitter @TheIggySabate.

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