Walsh: Boston Won’t Pay for Olympic Venues

Gov. Charlie Baker, left, and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh.
With new Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker looking on, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh spoke about Boston’s 2024 Olympic bid Friday. –EPA

Mayor Marty Walsh on Friday vowed a transparent process moving forward and said again that city money would not be put toward venue construction if Boston winds up hosting the 2024 Summer Olympics, an idea that took a big step toward reality Thursday night.

At a press conference held by the city, the Boston 2024 partnership, and the United States Olympic Committee the morning after the USOC selected Boston as its representative bid for 2024, Walsh announced an insurance policy was worked into Boston’s bid, which will cover the city if taxpayer money is put to use during the bidding process. The policy covers up to $25 million, The Boston Globe reported Thursday night. Olympic costs tend to wind up in the multi-billion dollar range, but Walsh classified the policy as “a starting point.’’ There is no such policy for state funds, at least not at this point.

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Boston 2024, the group that has pushed for the Olympics, has said that it plans to cover the costs of operating the Summer Games privately, and has estimated the budget to be about $4.5 billion. Public money would go toward infrastructure improvements, and Walsh said public funds may go toward land use costs as well. Federal money would all but certainly cover security costs if Boston winds up the host city.

A Boston 2024 spokesperson said the group will cover all of the costs associated with the actual bidding process, which is expected to run through 2017 when the International Olympic Committee chooses a host from candidate cities around the world. Other potential host cities for 2024 include (but are not limited to) Rome, Paris, a German city—either Berlin or Hamburg—Istanbul, Melbourne, and a South African city.

Walsh also pledged Friday “the most open, transparent’’ process in planning the bid, and announced nine public meetings to be held between now and September. The first is scheduled for Jan. 27 at Suffolk Law School, with monthly meetings to follow. The full schedule is available here.

Boston 2024 scheduled its first public meeting, too, for Jan. 21 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. The group had said it would hold meetings monthly starting this month in advance of gaining the USOC’s nod to host the Games Thursday night.

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Transparency and public input have been at question as the Boston bid moved through the USOC bidding process. Opposition groups have argued the public did not have any say in deciding to bid in the first place.

No Boston Olympics, the group opposing the initiative, scheduled a public meeting of its own for Jan. 14, though did not announce a venue.

Walsh said he did not see a scenario in which Boston is not submitted as a candidate to the International Olympic Committee in September. “Are we just going to ram it down people’s throats? Absolutely not,’’ he said, adding that he was “willing to bet’’ that the public was in support of the bid. (There hasn’t been much in the way of Olympic bid polling, but in June the Globe found a public that was divided about making a play for the Games, and opposed to using public funds to bid.)

Asked whether he expected the bid to come to a vote at some point, a notion No Boston Olympics has said it is considering, Walsh said no.

The mayor said that the prospect of hosting the 2024 Games stood in alignment with his administration’s views for moving the city forward by developing infrastructure and housing, and positioning the city on the global stage.

New Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, in his first full day on the job, echoed those thoughts, saying the bid was an opportunity to discuss “what we want Boston to look like.’’ Baker said there would be “significant opportunities’’ for public discourse over the proposal now that the USOC has selected it over the other U.S. candidate cities (which were Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.).

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John Fish, the chair of Boston 2024 and the CEO of Suffolk Construction, said he was “wicked excited’’ about the selection. He discussed some details of the bid Friday, which could change as it moves through the international process, though he did not provide much in the way of new information. He spoke of the plan for a temporary stadium at Widett Circle in South Boston that would be dismantled after the Olympics, and the use of existing venues for events, especially those at college campuses. He estimated that if the Games were to occur, 70 to 75 percent of events would occur on Greater Boston campuses.

Fish told the Globe following the press conference that he would recuse Suffolk Construction from getting involved in Olympic-related construction.

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