Sunday, January 11, 2015

No, Marty, You’ve *Already* Rammed the 2024 Olympic Bid Down Our Throats

Yesterday, in his fittingly closed-to-the-public press conference on the city’s Olympic bid, Marty Walsh remarked, “Are we going to ram it down people’s throats? Absolutely not.”

The problem is that he’s already done so. Yes, the bid may change based on input from the community hearings, which will be too few and too late (and, given the description of the first one, too tightly controlled). But no one in the city or the state voted on bidding for the 2024 Olympics in the first place. That decision was made entirely without public input.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t even think the Boston City Council has ever had a hearing on this. A search for “Olympics” in City Council minutes from the past year yielded nothing. (The Cambridge City Council, by contrast, has been far more open and proactive. Last month, they voted to oppose the Boston 2024 bid.)

It is important to remember that hosting the Olympics is only part of the problem. One of the biggest damages that the Boston 2024 bid will do–whether the city wins or not—is divert our attention from many of the pressing challenges that we face as both a city and a state. The planning that goes into the bid will take up time, money, and resources, and that will come at the expense of other issues we need to address: the dearth of affordable housing, the acceleration of climate change, the rise of health care costs, the plague of mass incarceration, insufficient funding and inequitable funding for education and infrastructure, among many others.

The IOC does not make its selection until summer 2017. That means that we have two and a half years of time, money, and resources that, in the best scenario for the people of Boston and the state, will be fully wasted.

At his closed press conference, Marty also remarked, “I’d be willing to bet if you took a poll today, the majority of people would be excited.” A month ago, he acted as though he had actually seen such polling numbers. His language here makes that seem doubtful. However, the only public polling data available do not support such boosterism. A poll by the Globe back in the summer found a majority of Metro Boston opposed to the Boston 2024 bid (51% to 38%), although a slim majority of the state overall supported it (47% to 43%). However–and this is key–when the best arguments from both sides were presented, that slim support became overwhelming opposition, with people saying no to the Olympic bid 2:1. In other words, the more people hear about the bid, the more they realize that they’re getting a raw deal.

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