How a Temporary Olympic Stadium Could Help Boston’s 2024 Bid

Boston’s proposed temporary Olympic Stadium may appeal to the International Olympic Committee.
Boston’s proposed temporary Olympic Stadium may appeal to the International Olympic Committee. –AP

When the Boston 2024 committee, which is behind the Hub Olympics proposal, unveiled its plans for what the Games could look like last month, one feature stood out particularly. A temporary Olympic Stadium would be put up at Widett Circle in South Boston, and then dismantled once the Olympics had ended. That idea might wind up well-aligned with the priorities of the International Olympic Committee in ultimately awarding the Games.

On Tuesday, the IOC released 40 recommendations for the future of the Olympics, including the bidding process for potential host cities. A few of the recommendations are clearly aimed at quelling at least some of the discontent with the cost of hosting the Olympics, which tend to go over-budget and bring little in the way of economic benefits. That reputation has scared off a number of potential bidders for the 2022 Winter Games. The Olympic planning process has also been criticized for creating so-called White Elephants, or venues that are constructed for the Games and then wind up sitting around collecting dust once the Olympics wind down.

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The drafted IOC recommendations, which will be discussed in December at the 127th IOC Session, suggest that the use of temporary stadiums and other venues, as well as the use of existing venues, be considered “as positive aspects’’ for a bid. The recommendations additionally suggest that the IOC “actively promote the maximum use of existing facilities and the use of temporary and demountable venues’’ for bidding cities. Temporary Olympic Stadiums, hosting opening and closing ceremonies have been employed previously by two French cites for Winter Olympic bids, and one is planned for the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea. (Temporary non-stadium venues, such as beach volleyball grounds, are more common in Olympics history.)

The IOC recommendations would apply to the bidding process for the 2024 Games, according to The Associated Press. That means that if Boston were selected by the U.S. Olympic Committee to represent the country’s bid, it would then go in front of an IOC with a temporary stadium proposal—something the IOC may see as a very good attribute.

So how, exactly, would a temporary 60,000-seat stadium be better financially than a permanent one? After all, in this case you’re not just building a stadium—you’re also tearing it down. The Boston Business Journal explains:

Before the temporary stadium concept came into focus, the Partnership needed a private sector partner — the Krafts, say, or possibly a university — willing to foot the construction bills. Sure, the city or the state could have borrowed the money. But there would probably be a public outcry before you could even get the bankers in the room.

Temporary facilities are a different story. The International Olympic Committee allows revenue from the Games — funds from ticket sales, sponsorships and broadcast rights — to be used for temporary fixtures that are only in place for the Games. Here today. Gone tomorrow.

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In other words, the funding for a temporary venue can be paid for through the broader Olympics budget—not a separate expense that somebody else would have to put up, possibly taxpayers. The use of existing venues—also stressed in the IOC’s recommendations—is part of the Boston proposal, too, with the TD Garden, Harvard Stadium, Gillette Stadium, and other spots considered likely spots for events.

The Boston 2024 group has said it thinks it can pay for all construction costs—stadium and beyond—with about $4.5 billion, all privately financed between revenue from the Olympics and donations. The Olympics, however, have a reputation for going over-budget with the deficit often falling on the public.

The Boston group hosted the U.S. Olympic Committee last week, generating criticism by not giving much in the way of a heads up to the public. The Boston bid is competing with bids from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. If the USOC chooses to go forward with one of those bids—we’d know this winter—whichever one was selected would eventually go in front of the IOC. The IOC would choose a locale from across the world in 2017.

San Francisco’s bidders are also proposing a temporary stadium, while Washington is proposing a new stadium that could be converted to something else afterward, while the L.A. group is in favor of renovating its existing Los Angeles Coliseum, which has twice previously served as an Olympic Stadium. That use of an existing venue would likely appeal to the IOC, too, based on its drafted recommendations.

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If the IOC winds up choosing Boston, though, you could safely bet that we’ll be suited for a very loud debate about whether to move forward. Here’s what that debate might look like.

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