Boston, Be Bold!

Boston, Be Bold!

© David Burton 2015

Boston Olympics

     A large number of Boston and Massachusetts citizens have once again demonstrated their parochialism by opposing the efforts to bring the 2024 summer Olympics to Boston. Their opposition is based primarily on their refusal to fund any part of the Olympics with public financing. Others oppose bringing the world famous event to Beantown because of the temporary disruptions to their everyday lifestyles. All too-many citizens of Boston and Massachusetts have lost the pioneering spirit, which, nearly 250 years ago, resulted in the American Revolution. Instead, what we are seeing in 2015 is a fear of taking risks and a lack of foresight. Instead of seizing a once-in-a lifetime opportunity to promote the city to the entire world and to improve the infrastructure and the quality of life for its inhabitants and its business community, we see a group of negativists who lack the foresight and the spirit of those early revolutionary Bostonians, like Paul Revere, Sam Adams, and John Hancock.

     We need only look back to the 1770s when Boston’s patriots rose up to protest unfair taxes and governance by Great Britain. But, then as now, there were those who resisted and only wanted to maintain the status-quo under a British rule. In 1775-76, the founders of these United States fought not only the British but also others who called themselves Loyalists to the British Crown. The American rebels called them Tories, a derogatory label linked to the Irish word for outlaw. Today’s Tories, likewise, don’t want to disturb their status-quo. But, it’s up to today’s rebels who foresee a better tomorrow to resist their attempts to hold back the citizens of Boston. The Tories didn’t win in 1775 and they must not win in 2024!

     These Olympics opponents are fearful of big projects like the Big Dig whose costs can spiral out of control; they worry that the regional transportation system, the MBTA, might be unable to handle the large crowds that will descent upon the city; they bemoan the traffic jams that might occur during the Olympics event. Instead of demonstrating a can-do attitude and devoting the resources to developing the plans to make a 2024 Boston Olympics a resounding success, they wring their hands in despair, they constantly worry, they fear the worst, and they see only doom and disaster. “An argument about how Boston won’t be able to handle the Games because the MBTA can’t handle the snow reflects only a failure of imagination.(Ref. 1)

     There is no question, that to be of long-lasting benefit, the hosting of a major event such as the Olympics must be well-planned and carefully executed. Done wrong, it can be a fiasco and an economic disaster. Done right, it can result in long-term benefit to the host city – culturally and economically. If done with careful forethought, new sporting venues, infrastructure upgrades, and facilities to house athletes, visitors, officials and media representatives can prove to be a significant benefit to the community long after the Olympic event is over. “There is nothing like an Olympics to catalyze a city and region to think big and then take bold action to define its future.(Ref. 1)

     Yes, to be successful, the hosting of the 2024 Olympics in Boston will require careful planning and investment. Perhaps even more important will be the oversight needed to ensure that the project stays within budget – cost growth must be contained. Since when does, Boston, Massachusetts or new England lack the skill, talent and resources to successfully carry out such an endeavor?

     A major event such as the Olympics usually requires upgrades to transport links. While incurring the expenditure of funds (normally public funds), these transportation upgrades can have a positive net impact long after the event is over. Well-planned transportation upgrades can reduce future traffic congestion, increase efficiency for local businesses and can improve the overall economy. As one recent example of such a positive outcome, the 2012 London Olympics produced new rail links in East London, along with improvements to the existing underground and above ground train services in and to the city.

     A major sporting event like the Olympics can attract an enormous number of visitors for the duration of the games. While temporary, the surge in the number of visitors can provide a significant boost to the local economy. However, showcasing the allure of a city like Boston to the world can lead to a long term growth in tourists. Certainly, the Beijing Olympics in 2008 spotlighted that city in China as a place to visit. Barcelona, Spain saw higher visitor numbers continue long after it hosted the 1992 Olympics.

     Hosting the Olympics requires investment to construct new sports venues, infrastructure, and other facilities. This creates jobs for the years leading up to the Games, and for a few years after the event. These extra jobs produce a positive multiplier effect within the local economy. This temporary job creation can prove more permanent if economic regeneration continues after the event.

     Those residents of Boston and the citizens of the state of Massachusetts who have not lost the spirit of their 18th century ancestors need to stand up in opposition to those who constantly say that nothing can be done to avoid disaster whenever a new challenge comes to light. “Somehow, when the Olympics come to town, longstanding plans that had always been thought to be politically impossible or financially infeasible come off the shelf and get put into action with unprecedented speed. Tokyo built its subway around hosting the Games in 1964. Barcelona, which had been ignored for 50 years under the rule of Franco, rethought its transit system and revitalized its waterfront around the 1992 Games, making it one of Europe’s most vibrant cities and greatest tourist destinations. Atlanta used the Games to enhance {its} downtown core. More recently, London used the Olympics to create a massive, magnificent mixed-use community on a former dump in its East End . . .” (Ref. 1) Boston can do likewise. Planning for the 2024 Olympics should be viewed as a golden chance to upgrade and improve the city and the region around it. Instead of rushing to condemn the project and refusing to commit public funds to the project, Bay Staters should, instead, encourage the planning of the project and should be willing to open their pocketbooks to make it happen. Providing funds to bring the Olympics to Boston is an investment that can pay back the investment many times over if done correctly. Other cities have shown that it can be done. And, it can be done if there is the will to get it done. It won’t be done if we listen to the eternal pessimists in our midst. Significantly, “to benefit from a bid, Boston doesn’t even have to win.(Ref. 1)

     As an example of winning when losing, consider New York City’s failed bid to host the 2012 Olympics. New York City’s “proposed Olympic village was going to be on a spectacular site in Queens across the East River from the United Nations. After {New York} lost, the city bought the land and it is now becoming the largest subsidized middle-income housing development in New York in 50 years.” (Ref. 1)

     Another example of the benefits that van accrue to an Olympics host city is that of Atlanta, Georgia, where the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games were held. The former mayor of Atlanta has written that today: “The Centennial Olympic Park remains the sparkling centerpiece of Atlanta’s Olympic legacy — for $75 million in private donations, with no expense to taxpayers. The park has served as an economic engine for downtown growth for the last 20 years.
     “Ten years after the Games, the park was surrounded by $1.5 billion in new developments — the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coca-Cola, the Atlanta Children’s Museum, Phillips Arena, new hotels, condos, shops, and restaurants. Last year {2014}, two major new attractions opened — the College Football Hall of Fame and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. All in all, with the park acting as a primary catalyst, there has been more than $2.3 billion invested since the Games and there’s another $1.8 billion on the boards.
     “And yet, the physical legacy is far greater than that. The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games built eight sports venues out of its marketing revenues — more than $500 million in new facilities, with no taxpayer exposure — and seven of them are still serving their communities. Atlanta’s Olympic Stadium, which became Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves post-Olympics, has served the city as its Major League Baseball stadium ever since. Two years ago, the Danish Institute for Sport Studies published its World Stadium Index, an analysis of the sustainability of 75 stadiums built for major events worldwide over the last 25 years — and Turner Field ranked number one on the list, the greatest single sustainability success story in global sport.
     “In addition, the Olympic Village on the campus of Georgia Tech, financed and built by the state’s university system, provided new or renovated housing for 14,000 athletes and officials, and has provided residences for more than 150,000 students since.
     “Among our greatest legacies was the redevelopment of a number of social housing projects. Through a public-private partnership between the Atlanta Development Authority and the Atlanta Housing Authority — with financial support from HUD — we created a new model of mixed affordable and market housing that delivered thousands of new homes — and new lives — to a wide range of Atlanta residents.
     “Through its Equal Economic Opportunity Program, the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games also delivered an extraordinary business development platform for companies headed by women and minorities. While the Olympic Games generated 77,000 full- and part-time jobs over the course of their development, . . . approximately 33 percent of the Games’ $684 million procurement expenditures and construction contracts had gone to female and minority businesses or individuals.
     “. . . the Olympic Games can help a city reach for greatness in many unique ways. [Emphasis mine]
     “Ask any one of the 51,881 volunteers, 6,560 staff, or 78,240 accredited contractors who put on the 1996 Summer Games and they’ll tell you this: Boston, you’re in for the opportunity of a lifetime if you land the 2024 Olympics — and you’ll still be basking in the golden glow of the legacy 20 years later, just as Atlanta still is. [Emphasis mine] (Ref. 2)

     If done correctly, hosting the Olympic games need not result in economic losses to the host community. “. . . not only has London seen record tourism and impres­sive GDP growth since hosting the Summer Games in 2012, but also that the past three Olympic Games hosted by U.S. cities—Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Salt Lake City—were cash-positive and run through public-private part­ner­ships. What’s more,  . . . a recent Boston Foundation analysis that found a Boston Olympics would have a net positive economic effect by creating more than 24,000 jobs and a $4 billion economic impact in the six years prior to the games and another 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in economic impact during the games. [Emphasis mine]
     Another strength of Boston’s bid,  . . . is that it calls for utilizing a vast number of existing and iconic facilities, particularly on many college campuses, to host events. This approach aligns with the International Olympics Committee’s 2020 Olympic Agenda, which includes greater sustainability and legacy planning in cities’ future bids. (Ref. 3)

     Very unfortunately, “If there were an Olympic medal for acrimony, Boston would take the gold.
     “The debate over the city's embattled bid to host the 2024 Summer Games has featured F-bombs at public hearings, shouting matches and online abuse in both directions.
     Regardless of whether the bid advances, some say the venom and vitriol represent a new low in a city where political disagreement long has been a blood sport.
      - - -
     “Boston's troubled bid got off to a rough start when skeptics questioned how much public money would be spent to bring the games to an already congested city, and it has foundered since.
     - - -
     “Inflaming all that is the massive bribery and corruption scandal engulfing FIFA, soccer's world governing body. Boston 2024 cynics were quick to suggest the IOC may be cut from the same cloth.
     - - -
     “Is the atmosphere now too toxic for the Olympic torch to burn over Boston?
     “. . . {A} co-founder of the Boston 2024 organizing committee who got the bid rolling three years ago, calls the tone ‘kind of depressing’ for a world-class city with a chance to showcase itself.” (Ref. 4)

     The 2024 Olympic bid can be a development driver for Boston and its suburbs. The Olympics “provides that kind of venue, that kind of an event, that kind of opportunity to say ‘Hey, look at Boston, we’re a great city, come and spend your money here, come and bring your business here, come and get talent here. Boston has a lot to showcase’ ” (Ref. 5)

     In September of 2016, Boston will host a Grand Prix auto race through the streets of South Boston during the Labor Day weekend. The event “is expected to draw at least 250,000 spectators to Boston with an anticipated economic impact of $75 million to $80 million.” (Ref. 5) A Grand Prix race is nothing compared to the Olympics Games, the economic impact of which would dwarf that of the auto race. If Boston can figure out how to run a Grand Prix Auto race in its environs, it can also successfully host the 2024 Olympic Games!

     As stated by Boston 2024, the committee formed to bring the 2024 Olympics to Boston, (Ref. 6), bringing the Olympics and Paralympics to Boston would not only “align with existing plans for the state's continued economic growth, but can also serve to accelerate the delivery of improvements in transportation, infrastructure, and housing. Put simply, the Olympics can help catalyze the long-term vision of the Commonwealth.”

     “As we consider the incredible potential of hosting the 2024 Olympic Games in Boston, we need to be bold, smart, hard-working and committed to those who live here as well as those who come to Boston as participants and visitors. These inherent qualities have made Massachusetts a leader in so many areas and there’s no reason our collective ingenuity can’t be put to use hosting the Olympic Games.(Ref. 7)

     More than two centuries ago, a group of New Englanders had the imagination and the will to defy those who said we couldn’t defeat the then greatest power in the world. These early patriots ignored the small-minded naysayers and prophets of gloom and doom. They demonstrated to the world what could be accomplished by men with foresight and with a daring can-do spirit. Small minds achieve nothing – great minds accomplish the seemingly impossible.

     “Great things happen when cities marry visionary ides with the political will to make them happen. These opportunities don’t come along often, but Boston has one right now. The question is whether the city will get behind the bid and make the most of it.(Ref. 1)

Boston, Be Bold - Carpe Diem!

  1. Use the Olympic bid to think big and bold, Dan Doctoroff, Boston Sunday Globe, Page K5, 7 June 2015.
  2. The Olympics — a dream worth chasing, Andrew Young, The Boston Globe: Opinion, 26 May 2015.
  3. Boston 2024 chairman: Olympics could be ‘transformative’ for city, Greg St. Martin, news@Northeastern,
    2 April 2015.
  4. F-bombs, shouting: Uncivil discourse on Boston's Olympic bid, William J. Kole, Associated Press, 31 May 2015.
  5. Barros: Grand Prix will drive progress, Herald Staff, Boston Herald, Page 17, 4 June 2015.
  6. Boston 2024,, Accessed 9 June 2015.
  7. Column: Boston Olympics would be boon for region, Kim Driscoll and Dan Rivera, The Salem News,
    26 April 2015.


12 June 2015 {Article 223; State_13}    
Go back to the top of the page