A couple of years ago, The Onion ran a satirical piece about Bostonians pretending to live in a big city. It said residents “buzz about their daily routines in a delightful hubbub of excitement as if they lived in a major American metropolis.”
Some people laughed, some were defensive. But few disputed that Boston is wrapped up in an existential debate with itself about whether it is a “world-class” city.
Despite its many obvious assets — world-renowned universities, top-flight medical centers, a thriving biotech-driven innovation economy and championship sports teams, not to mention Tom Brady and David Ortiz — Boston still has an inferiority complex. And as it makes its first serious bid to host the Olympics, it shows.
Some seem to think that being picked to put on the 2024 Summer Games is entwined with mythic world-class status.
“Boston is a global leader in innovation, and in order to remain a global leader, we must be aspirational,” the pro-Olympic Boston2024 website says.
To Boston’s mayor, Martin J. Walsh, an initial skeptic of the bid, hosting the Olympics “puts us on a scale not too many cities can claim.”
Mike Ross, a former Boston city councilman, argued that the Olympics are a good idea “and not just for the reasons one might think, such as helping us get over our persistent ‘smaller than New York’ Napoleon complex.”
Whether winning an Olympics confers world-class status, Boston’s bid contains an inherent paradox: Its dream to make it big is not that big.
Boston’s modest $4.5 billion proposal envisions a new Olympic model: a walkable, bikeable, sustainable Games that uses mostly pre-existing structures. This compact city of 646,000 plans a downsized, compressed, antisprawl Olympics. No venue would be more than a 10-minute walk from a subway stop or a commuter rail line.
The International Olympic Committee has been forced to encourage this kind of thinking. Interest in hosting has declined as potential hosts watched costs spiral out of control for recent Games in Beijing ($40 billion) and Sochi, Russia ($50 billion).
Still, one might wonder if Boston’s proposal was actually made by The Onion: The athletes could live in college dormitories that are empty during the summer; the modular housing of an Olympic village could later become new dorms; and a proposed $700 million Olympic Stadium would be temporary, so it could be razed or relocated.
Does anyone think this might be carrying Yankee frugality too far? And are Olympic bigwigs serious about not wanting an extravaganza?
Either way, the Boston promoters are trying to win over naysayers by promising tangible benefits like upgrades in roads, bridges and public transit. But many wonder why it would take the Olympics to get those much-needed improvements. The Boston Globe columnist Joan Vennochi wrote that the promoters were giving Bostonians an impossible choice: Buy in to their bid to get a modern transportation system, or “be labeled a small-minded, provincial party-pooper.”
And there you have it: Without the Olympics, Boston cannot be world class.
US Olympic Committee meeting today. Sounds like they're going to make a decision on which city to move forward with as the US bid. Either it all ends today or the next 2 years become very interesting...
"And it is expected to face stiff competition from Rome and perhaps other European capitals like Paris and Berlin. South Africa is also expected to bid for the 2024 Games in an effort to bring the Olympics to its continent for the first time."
As a resident of Western Mass. who paid dearly for a Big Dig that rarely benefits me, I should be equally frustrated at the $4.5B (plus, plus) price tag to host the games. But a Boston Olympics would be a once in a lifetime opportunity to enjoy a potentially incredible experience.
This would necessitate a long road trip for the Sox, I presume.
"Local Olympic organizers say Boston 2024’s Olympic operating budget, about $4.5 billion, would be financed mainly through broadcast fees, corporate sponsorships and ticket sales. They have pledged no public money will be used, beyond what is already planned to be spent for infrastructure improvements."
Seems unlikely that it won't be costly for taxpayers in some way.
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