Boston 2024’s disappearing Olympic budget gap

Boston’s proposed Olympic Stadium site.
Boston’s proposed Olympic Stadium site. –AP

When Boston 2024 pitched its original operating budget to the United States Olympic Committee, the bidding group admitted it faced a funding gap of nearly a half billion dollars. The budget was later presented to the public as balanced.

“Currently, Boston 2024 requires an additional $471 [million] in revenues to support the Games. Boston 2024 continues to actively investigate ways to bridge this gap both by reducing costs and increasing revenues in areas such as sponsorship and ticketing,’’ the full version of Boston 2024’s full bidding documents from last December reads.

Boston 2024 said it hoped to fill the gap, either by finding new revenue or cutting costs, and listed some possibilities for how to do so.

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“As Boston 2024 moves forward in the bid process, the budget team will work closely with the USOC to identify and establish plans to close this gap,’’ the bid read.

The section was scrubbed from Boston 2024’s plans by the time they were released to the public in January. The full version of the bid was released Friday.

The two versions of the original bid included a chart showing the budget would cover the gap with “additional revenue.’’ Boston.com noted upon the release of the public version that the plans for additional revenue seemed vague. But only the version submitted to the USOC described the need for additional revenues as a “gap.’’

Boston 2024 has since published new plans, which it says override the original bid. In those documents, the bidding group foresees a more than $200 million profit, aided in part by higher than previously projected TV rights payments from the International Olympic Committee. Boston 2024 Chairman Steve Pagliuca stressed that the new plan represents the group’s current plans.

“The preliminary bid book was intended to serve as a ‘proof of concept’–a general demonstration that Boston can, in fact, serve as host city. While it served that purpose well, it was not meant to be a final or operable plan,’’ Pagliuca said in a statement.

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But to opposition group No Boston Olympics, the failure to acknowledge the revenue shortfall as a “gap’’ in the public version of the bid indicates that Boston 2024 wanted to give the public a different understanding of its finances than it gave to the USOC.

“The release of Boston 2024’s unredacted bid documents confirm that the boosters have been saying one thing behind closed doors, and an entirely different thing to Massachusetts taxypayers,’’ the group said in a statement.

The prospect of budgetary shortfalls has been key to the region’s Olympic debate, because the International Olympic Committee requires host cities to guarantee to cover deficits. Boston 2024 has said it plans to take out insurance to cover many possible unexpected costs associated with hosting the games, but has acknowledged it can’t guarantee zero risk in hosting the games.

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