What Would the International Olympic Committee Require of Boston?

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, talking about the city’s 2024 Olympics bid.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, talking about the city’s 2024 Olympics bid. –EPA

Though City Hall has refused to release documents reviewed by Mayor Marty Walsh in advance of submitting a 2024 Summer Games bid to the United States Olympic Committee, one is available online.

Walsh wrote in October to the USOC, confirming he had reviewed recent International Olympic Committee documents signed by prospective host cities. In doing so, he said, he understood what a host city contract would require of Boston if it wound up winning the 2024 nod.

“After reviewing the most recent Host City Contract I am cognizant of what responsibilities a 2024 designation would entail for Boston and in my capacity as 54th mayor of this great city I hereby confirm the ability of the City of Boston to sign the Host City Contract with the USOC, respect the Olympic Charter, and re-affirm our previously stated support,’’ read the letter, which was included in the bidding documents Boston 2024 sent to the U.S. committee last year.

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Another portion of the bidding documents says: “Boston 2024 has been working collaboratively with the City of Boston in reviewing the Host City Contract, both the 2020 version, as well as the modifications in the recently-released 2022 version.’’

Walsh’s office is refusing to publicly release those documents, The Boston Herald reports, saying they are not the city’s to give. Boston.com also requested those documents after Boston 2024’s bid was made public. The city declined to provide them, saying:

Mayor Walsh’s legal team reviewed the 2020 and 2022 IOC documents and advised him accordingly while discussing Boston’s submission to the USOC but at present those documents are classified by the IOC as proprietary information and as such the City can not release the agreements at this time.

However, at least one of the documents is available online, through the Olympics website.

Before Boston signs a host city contract—before we even know if Boston is selected to hold the games—it will make a series of guarantees to the IOC as part of the bidding process. When prospective host cities submit their bids to the games’ global governing body, they are asked in advance to agree to these guarantees.

Those guarantees are considered a part of the host city contract once the city is chosen, the IOC says. “Guarantees provided in support of candidatures are indeed part of the Host City Contract and, as such, are binding upon the Host City,’’ IOC spokesperson Emmanuelle Moreau told Boston.com in an emailed statement.

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Boston’s bidding group will be asked to include a guarantee letter with its bid to the IOC next January.

The documents Walsh has reviewed that are related to the 2022 Winter Games include the guarantees required for the cities bidding to host them. The guarantees are available here, listed in full starting on page 213. The city’s legal department has confirmed to Boston.com, through mayoral spokesperson Laura Oggeri, that the document “is what Mayor Walsh reviewed in advance of Boston bidding for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.’’

It’s possible the guarantees for 2024 bids could be different, especially considering that a number of countries dropped out of the 2022 sweepstakes during the candidature phase.

The 2022 document does, however, give a sense for what the most recent cities to face the IOC’s decision-making process were asked to agree to—and what Walsh has reviewed as Boston prepares to partake.

In total, the IOC asked for more than 40 guarantees. Among them are:

•A clear civic calendar:

Guarantee that no other event will take place during the Olympic Games or one week immediately before or after.

•Laws giving the IOC advertising and vending control:

Guarantee(s) confirming that the legislation necessary to effectively reduce and sanction ambush marketing and, during the period beginning two weeks before the Opening Ceremony to the Closing Ceremony of the Olympic Games eliminate street vending and control advertising space and air space will be passed as soon as possible but no later than 1 January 2020.

•The ability of local Olympic organizing committees (like Boston 2024) to represent the city in the eyes of the IOC:

Declaration confirming that the Bid Committee is empowered to represent the Candidate City and indicating the names of the persons and/or their titles who have the authority to sign contracts and other documents on behalf of the city.

•The IOC being taken off the hook for any cost overruns:

Guarantee to cover any potential economic shortfall of the (Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games), including refunds to the IOC of advances in payment or other contributions made by the IOC to the OCOG, which the IOC may have to reimburse to third parties in the event of any contingency such as full or partial cancellation of the Olympic Games.

(This could be the sort of thing that would presumably be covered by the insurance policy the city and Boston 2024 have taken out, though that policy only applies through the end of the bidding process in 2017. The city and Boston 2024 have implied it would look for another, larger policy if it is selected by the IOC.)

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•The city, state, or country agreeing to cover any financial issues in building an Olympic Village:

Guarantees for the financing of work. Underwriting from the local, regional or national government in the event of a shortfall in the financing of the Olympic Village(s).

•The local organizing group (like Boston 2024) playing a role in designing an Olympic Village:

Guarantee stating that the owners of the Olympic Village agree to include OCOG as part of the design team.

•The creation of dedicated “Olympic Lanes’’ on city roads, if the bid’s traffic plan calls for them:

Guarantee for the delivery of Olympic Lanes, if applicable.

(Olympic Lanes are defined in another part of that document as “a continuous directional road lane dedicated to designated Olympic traffic during 15 hours or more per day.’’ They are used to get athletes and officials from place to place and are not open to the public. Olympic Lanes, which caused some headaches in London during the 2012 Olympics there, can be worked into a traffic plan for a host city, but for 2022 were not strictly required by the IOC.)

All host city contracts will be made public starting with the 2022 Olympics, according to the IOC. The 2022 host will be chosen this summer. That competition is down to just two candidates—Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan.

The move to make host city contracts public was part of the Olympic reform measures passed by the IOC late last year. Before that, the decision to make a contract public or not was in the hands of the hosts. Tokyo’s contract to host the 2020 Olympics has not been made public.

Rio de Janeiro (which will host the 2016 Olympics) and London, by contrast, did release their contracts to the public. Those contracts do not specifically list the set of guarantees that were required during the bidding phase, but contain references to the “financial guarantees provided by the national, regional or local authorities, during the City’s application or candidature to host the games.’’

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