The big winner from Sochi? There’s little doubt in this space that it will end up being Mikaela Shiffrin, the 18-year-old product of Burke Mountain Academy who became the youngest to win the women’s Olympic slalom last Friday. The Vail, Colo. native has to be a sponsor’s dream: Young, attractive, dominant in her sport, and for the ski companies losing a generation to the growing popularity of freestyle, she represents a gold mine of marketing opportunities, at least to the point her level-headed parents see fit.
In four years, Shiffrin will be only 22 when the 2018 Winter Olympics take place in South Korea, only 26 in 2022 when they are hosted by the likes of applicants Poland, Norway, or Ukraine. She’ll be 30 in 2026, a year that some see the Winter Games as viability for Boston.
Yup, the Winter Olympics.
Most recently, Boston has been treated to the cockamamie dream that the city should put in a bid to host the 2024 Summer Games, an event that is only 10 years away. We’re only three years away from the IOC making a decision on which city will host those Games. That would leave seven years for Boston to prepare hosting its biggest event ever in a city that would need dramatic infrastructure improvements. It’s going to take two years to spruce up the Government Center T stop. Can you imagine the collective halt the city would come to when it was told it needed to build a state-of-the-art facility for Opening and Closing ceremonies and track and field events? Bob Kraft can tell you a thing or two.
Clearly, these people need to be stopped. Boston hosting the Summer Olympics is about as good an idea for the Hub as holding Molasses Flood Appreciation Day. Besides the lack of hotels, efficient highway system, lackluster public transportation, bars that close at 2 a.m., and millions in local resources that simply placing a realistic bid will take, it’s a nifty idea.
Boston Magazine’s Steve Annear recently wrote about the three sides of the Olympics coming to Boston, citing the committee that has already been formed with an eye on 2024. These are people you should be afraid of.
There is also a group who wants nothing to do with the flame burning brightly above the Hub. No Boston Olympics runs its platform on spending state resources on something other than a “three-week party.”
“Boston being a really good place to live in, and work, we think this is a really bad idea,” the group’s head Chris Dempsey told Annear. “We want to shift the conversation back to important issues like addressing inner city violence, health care costs, and job growth—the really, truly important issues. The Olympics are a real distraction from what will make Boston and Massachusetts a great place to live over the next two decades.”
But what about the idea of the Winter Olympics? The Games are on a much smaller scale than their summer counterparts both in terms of number of events and athletes, and if Boston were to host them, it would become one of the largest cities in history to do so. “I think it makes sense,” said Scott Cavanaugh, who launched the idea two years ago, “We should open it to what the best option could be. If the U.S. doesn’t win 2024, we could look at 2026. If we are spending time and taxpayer money, let’s really do that and look at all of our options. I think it would make sense to modify the committee.”
Clearly, it’s a mission that Boston couldn’t manage on its own, and you have to wonder how Maine or Vermont might feel picking up much of the Alpine load for “Boston 2026.” For downhill purposes, only Stowe and Sugarloaf would be considered most viable for competition purposes. However, in attempting to make its bid for the 2022 Games, Quebec City failed to receive approval for Le Massif being the site of the downhill. At a vertical of 2,526 feet, it’s comparable to both Stowe (2,360) and Sugarloaf (2,820). For the record, Whiteface, the closest venue to ever host an Olympic event, boasts a vertical of 3,430 feet.
But New England does already possess a wealth of venues that would be ideal for cross-country (Bretton Woods), hockey (TD Garden), figure skating (Agannis Arena), and freestyle events (Mount Snow, Sunday River, etc). From an existing standpoint, it makes a hell of a lot more sense than shoehorning summer events in Boston, not to mention the billions it might take to build and upgrade facilities.
And the sustained Olympic growth that Sochi dreams of? It’s not like Boston is going to be a resort destination anytime soon, and even as cool as the Seaport neighborhood has become, a Whitey Bulger amusement park (the John Connolly House of Mirrors!) probably isn’t in the plans as is Sochi’s Russian-themed gamble. In the end, what’s the benefit other than being able to sell a few hats and t-shirts? We already have spots at Burke and Gunstock where we can plant “Mikaela skied here” signs.
Other potential bids for 2026 may come from Lake Tahoe, Denver, Bozeman, Mont., and Anchorage, Ala., as well as Barcelona and Quebec City. Boston’s interest as of now is little more than speculation. But the grassroots effort for 2024 is growing. “Boston is the perfect blend of history and modernism – offering rich cultural experiences and world-class technology, media, academics to those expected to attend. Our population reflects the makeup of the world,” it reads on the 2024 website. “We have residents from every nationality/ethnicity/language along with their vibrant food, arts, entertainment and culture.”
Neat. We’re also the completely wrong city to host such an endeavor.
Despite all concerns leading up to the Olympics, Sochi eventually came out a winner. In Boston? Let’s just end the conversation now.