We’ve all heard the buzz: Boston is exploring the idea of an Olympic bid. Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill to create a commission to investigate the possibility of bringing the Summer Olympic Games to Boston in 2024.
Trying to figure out if and how such an endeavor could work? Here are 10 things to help you think straight.
1. How did we get here?
Well, here’s the short story: The United States Olympic Committee, which is in charge of selecting one candidate city for a 2024 bid, sent letters to 35 US cities to determine the level of interest in hosting an Olympic Games. The United States hasn’t hosted a summer Olympics since 1996 in Atlanta, and hasn’t hosted a winter Games since 2002 in Salt Lake City.
The long story has its roots in a senior thesis produced for Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Six years ago, Corey Dinopoulos created an Olympic bid book for Boston as an academic exercise. The 2012 London Games rekindled his Olympic dream, and he set himself on a path to determine if a Boston bid would be possible.
“We are a sports town with European charm and beautiful summer weather,’’ Dinopoulos said. He reached out to state Senator Eileen Donoghue (pictured), who represents the district Dinopoulos grew up in and who took up the charge and sponsored the bill to form an exploratory commission. Governor Deval Patrick signed that bill on Oct. 31, and the 11-member commission has gained support from people who have experience with and interest in the Olympics (e.g. Mitt Romney).
Through Mayor Thomas Menino’s office, Dinopoulos got in touch with Eric Reddy, another Games aficionado who had been probing City Hall about the prospect of a Boston bid. Together, they co-founded the Boston 2024 Organizing Committee and reached out to the community to bring more people on board. In the last year, they’ve garnered support from more than 50 people, including Tori Stevens, the Global ESPN X Games director, and Peter Roby, Northeastern University’s athletic director. The organizing committee also has an experienced representative serving on the 11-member commission: Steve Freyer, who chaired the Boston Organizing Committee in the 1990s.
Dinopoulos said there was much at stake in this bid, but that the high risk meant a potential high reward. “We all think with careful planning and proper exploration that this could do amazing things for our city & region,’’ he said.
2. How much does it cost?
The United States Olympic Committee estimated that the 2024 Olympics would cost at least $3 billion.
Pictured: USOC President Larry Probst spoke at a conference in Quebec City. Probst has been elected to the International Olympic Committee.
3. Who foots the bill?
Funding comes in part from sponsors, broadcast revenue, and ticket sales, but if all that can’t cover the cost of the Games, taxpayers may be expected to pick up the rest of the tab.
4. Is this going to drain Boston’s economy?
Hopefully not. In the host city selection process, there’s a degree of emphasis on an Olympic “legacy,’’ on what happens after the athletes leave, after the media turn off the lights, after the flame goes out.
According to Terrence Burns, the managing director of Teneo Strategy and a veteran Olympic bid consultant who worked on four successful campaigns, if a city wants to lodge a successful Olympic bid, it has to prove that if it is awarded the Games, all the proposed plans will enhance the city and enhance sport in the long run.
“I think the IOC are getting tighter and more focused on the need to make sure cities and communities aren’t wasting vast amounts of money,’’ Burns said. “It’s crucial that Boston, or whomever, they have to show the IOC that this fits with our city, this will benefit the citizens of our city in the long term, it’s not going to leave them with a bill they can’t pay.’’
5. So, who picks the host city?
The International Olympic Committee mandates that a country’s national committee is intricately involved with whatever city is eventually chosen to bid. For Boston, that would be the United States Olympic Committee. Appealing to the USOC is the first step in the process, after the exploratory committee convinces the city itself that a bid is a reasonable pursuit. The USOC weighs one potential host city against the others and, if it so chooses, selects one to represent the US bid for the 2024 Olympic Games.
6. What does Boston need to do now?
The bidding process involves developing a communication strategy so a city can make a strong pitch to the powers that be in the IOC, otherwise known as the 109 voting members who make the selection.
Burns said a strategy has to have a focused and international message.
“What the IOC like to see is a city who has linked their Olympic aspirations with the existing long-term aspirations with the city or region,’’ he said.
It takes extensive work for bidding cities to make plans that prove their ability to host. Technically speaking, developing a Games plan is a complicated process.
“You have 17 days of competition across 26 sports. And there have to be venues, venues that have to be built or repurposed from other structures,’’ Burns said.
And let’s not forget about security planning, transportation, and accommodations. With 16,500 athletes, 15,000 media members, and hundreds of thousands of spectators, a host city has to nail down a plan while aiming to avoid “white elephants,’’ or facilities that are built but never used again.
Burns said there are two things a city has to show the IOC to win: How it’s going to host, and why it wants to host. It’s less important to explain how the Games will enhance the city or region.
“You don’t need to reiterate that ad nauseam to the IOC,’’ Burns said. “You have to articulate what you’re bringing to them and to the Olympic movement and to sport. The cities that have been successful have been able to do that.’’
7. When will the USOC pick a city?
The USOC’s chief spokesman, Patrick Sandusky, released the only public statement from the organization regarding the 2024 Olympics: “We are having preliminary discussions with approximately 10 US cities to determine whether or not to bid for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and we hope to narrow that list by late-2014 or early-2015.’’
If Boston does win the US bid, the USOC will be the best partner the city will have, Burns said, as far as figuring out what to do, what not to do, and possible pitfalls during the process of appealing to the IOC.
Still, there are factors outside of Boston’s control. As with any competition, the result depends on the players on the field. Boston’s chances of winning depend on the strength of the other contenders in the 2024 cycle. “Just because it’s the US doesn’t mean you’re going to win,’’ Burns said. “You gotta get out and compete.’’
8. Who wants the Olympics to come to Boston?
Aside from Senator Donoghue and the Boston 2024 exploratory committee, some big players came out in support of a bid. You might recognize one: Mitt Romney, who oversaw the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002, as well as New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Also on board: Former Boston Police commissioner Ed Davis, and the chairman of Suffolk Construction, John Fish.
There are concerns, however. Hosting would require some infrastructure advancements: The MBTA would need a revamp to accommodate additional traffic, not to mention the venues the city would need, like a main Olympic stadium and an aquatic facility.
9. What are the potential impacts of hosting the Olympics?
There are two ends of the spectrum here, judging by what the world has seen in recent years. The Beijing Olympics in 2008 were all fanfare and spectacle, but what became of the Bird’s Nest serves as a reminder of one possible legacy. On the other hand, London appears to be thinking long-term and converting the Olympic Park into a functional part of the landscape. Yet even that has its ups and downs, as parts of the park remain off-limits to visitors.
10. Who are the other contenders?
Nothing definite yet, but rumor has it the USOC is visiting potential host cities, including Boston. Some possible competitors include Dallas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington. Only Los Angeles (pictured) has hosted before, in 1932 and 1984.