For some, Olympics opposition unconditional

Opponents of Boston’s Olympic bid at a public meeting in February.
Opponents of Boston’s Olympic bid at a public meeting in February. –The Boston Globe

Opposition to Boston’s Olympic bid has largely been the story of Boston’s Olympic bid.

“I think the opposition is healthy,’’ Steve Pagliuca, chairman of the bidding group Boston 2024, said in public remarks last week. “The unfortunate part is I don’t think they know what they’re opposed to yet.’’

For some critics, the resistance is unconditional.

Consider: Boston 2024 was criticized last year as being a small group making big decisions about the future of the city. Now Boston 2024 has expanded its board of directors to more than 50 people. The (paraphrased) response from some vocal critics? “The board’s too big.’’


Another example: When Boston’s Olympic shooting events were planned for Long Island, critics cried foul because they thought it was an inappropriate use of a space that has historically served a variety of social services. Now, per Boston 2024’s new plans, shooting events would take place at a shooting sports club in the northern suburb of Billerica. The response? “I thought this was supposed to be a walkable Olympics.’’

Here’s the calculus: Boston 2024 had ideas that its critics hated. Now it has new plans its critics hate too—even though they haven’t been fully released. And will that remain the case going forward, no matter what the plans contain?

“I would say: Yeah, exactly. There’s nothing they could do,’’ said Robin Jacks, an activist who has protested the Olympic bid since last fall as part of the group No Boston 2024. (The group is separate from the nonprofit No Boston Olympics.)

Jacks’s dogmatic approach may not be shared by all.

The most recent polling by WBUR and MassINC on the issue showed support hasn’t improved in recent months, as only 39 percent of voters statewide support the games.

But the same poll found that if venues were spread across the state, 51 percent supported the idea. That means some members of the public who oppose the bid say they could see themselves changing their minds.


Jacks said she does not think her position is unfair or unreasonable. She thinks Greater Boston is too crowded for the Olympics to work. And she said she cannot support the International Olympic Committee, because of past housing and social issues related to the Olympics. To her, any plan is a bad plan and should be criticized as such.

Joel Fleming, an attorney whose requests for public records helped lead to the release of Boston 2024’s controversial bidding documents from last year, said that the bidding group’s secrecy over those documents helped to color his own no-way attitude.

“I think the reason you see what looks like a knee-jerk or instinctual criticism of anything Boston 2024 does is a reaction to the lack of trust,’’ he said. “People have adopted a skeptical view.’’

Asked how the bid committee engages with people who are dead set against hosting, Boston 2024 COO Erin Murphy said in a statement: “We welcome all opinions and feel that the robust public discussion has been extremely helpful and has significantly improved the bid. We look forward to more public discussions as we move forward with plans for a sustainable and financially responsible Games that will be a world-class event for athletes, spectators and the community as a whole.’’

That sounds similar to a position regularly taken by No Boston Olympics’s three co-chairs, that they “do not think it is inconsistent to oppose the bid while also finding ways to make the bid more responsible.’’

Chris Dempsey, one of No Boston Olympics’s co-chairs, said he thinks discussions of board members or venue sites do not answer larger lingering questions—such as if or how Boston 2024 aims to protect the city from picking up any budgetary shortfall should it host the games.


Dempsey said details about those issues will be what he is looking for as Boston 2024 continues to release its new plans. For example, he said he would be “disappointed’’ if the upcoming bidding documents do not include “very specific information about insurance … what that insurance package would look like.’’

Dempsey and Jacks both acknowledged the tone of the debate can turn ugly at times.

On Thursday night, a bid opponent called a female newspaper columnist with whom he disagreed a “c—’’ on social media. (He apologized the next morning.)

That yielded strong criticism from Jacks and other bid opponents on Twitter. “Uh yeah, there’s a massive issue when you use a sexist slur against a woman,’’ Jacks tweeted.

Jacks also said she did not support the actions of a group who wrote “IOC PROPERTY’’ on a wall at Franklin Park in chalk, where Boston 2024 wants to host some events.

The Franklin Park Coalition suggested on Twitter that this action was hypocritical to the opposition group’s supposed purpose.

Boston’s Olympic bid: The players

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