All Eyes on Beantown
by Caryn Maconi
|With approximately 28 venues planned within a 10-kilometer radius, Boston is proposing one of the most compact and walkable Games in history.|
The campaign to bring the Olympic flame to the United States is here.
Following a Jan. 8 meeting of the United States Olympic Committee Board of Directors at the Denver International Airport, the USOC announced that it has selected Boston as the U.S. applicant city to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said that hosting the summer Games on U.S. soil, for the first time since Atlanta in 1996, advances the USOC’s mission of sustained competitive excellence.
“Our mission was substantially narrowed in 2004 to really focus on putting as many medals around the necks of Americans as we could, and we can’t underestimate the importance of hosting the Games in the U.S. to our ability to do just that,” Blackmun said. “If you look at it historically, we get a very significant bump in performance not only in the year that the Games are here, but also in the Games after and the Games after that.”
Beyond the medals, a U.S. bid also presents the opportunity to inspire and connect new generation of Americans through sport. In hosting the 2002 Winter Games, for instance, Salt Lake City became a world-class winter sports training hub. The state of Utah produced fifteen members of the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team, many of whom were just children watching their heroes compete at the 2002 Winter Games. In addition to its elite training grounds, the state now has some of the most developed grassroots and recreational winter sports programming in the nation.
Boston’s bid comes on the heels of the International Olympic Committee’s Agenda 2020 reforms, approved in December, which emphasize sustainability, cost-effectiveness and legacy as top priorities. A U.S. bid now, Blackmun said, presents an opportunity to be a leader in putting those reforms into practice – especially with the help of one of the great intellectual hubs of the world.
“In terms of why Boston, I think one of the most powerful factors for Boston was that it allowed us to help deliver a new model for the Games,” Blackmun said. “At the end of the day, I think everybody recognizes that the current model is challenged. We feel like we have an obligation to help change that model, and we feel that the Games gives us that opportunity.”
The domestic process to select a U.S. bid city began more than 16 months ago, when the USOC first reached out to approximately 35 U.S. cities to gauge interest in a potential bid. The pool was narrowed down to four finalists – Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. – in June.
Ultimately, Boston’s bid was found to be the most reflective of the Agenda 2020 reforms in unique and compelling ways. Nearly 75 percent of venues are expected to be located on Boston’s abundant college campuses, a key component of the bid that stood out to Blackmun and the USOC Board.
“When you look at the cost of the Games from a venues standpoint and how many of the venues are going to be used long-term, the fact that we could build university venues into our plan made a big difference,” Blackmun said. “But secondly, one of our biggest challenges is, what do our athletes do when they’re done competing? Having those colleges and universities at the table with us as we try to devise a better program and a better philosophy toward our athletes and their long-term wellness – we just thought that was an incredible opportunity.”
With approximately 28 venues planned within a 10-kilometer radius, Boston is also proposing one of the most compact and walkable Games in history. Its proposed operating budget is less than $5 billion, with public funding used only for transportation and infrastructure improvements that are already in the pipeline for the city.
“We didn’t go into this with the view that we should host the Games at any cost,” Blackmun said.
“Specifically, the primary principle that we asked the board to focus on was that we don’t want to fund the Games with any resources that are currently used to fund NGB and athlete programming.”
Formal decisions to bid are due to the International Olympic Committee on Sept. 15, 2015. Over the next few months, Boston will participate in the IOC’s new “invitation phase,” during which potential host cities may begin lines of communication and ask questions to the IOC prior to submitting an official bid.
The USOC and the Boston 2024 bid committee will also face the important task of gathering increased public support for the bid within the Boston community in the coming months.
“We had asked each of the four finalist cities to take a lower profile than we have in the past, and because of that it was more difficult for each of the cities to really tell the story of their bid and how it’s going to be financed,” Blackmun said. “At the end of the day, we wanted each of these bids to be a part of the long-term plans of these communities. So as Boston 2024 has a greater opportunity to talk to its constituents and its residents about this bid, I think you’ll see a lot of growing enthusiasm, because it’s a very fiscally responsible bid.”
Competing bids for the 2024 Games are likely to come from Paris, Rome, and Berlin or Hamburg in Germany, as well as several other cities that have expressed interest. The IOC will award the host for the 2024 Games at the 130th IOC session in Lima, Peru, in summer 2017.