Walsh ‘Wouldn’t Stand in the Way’ of 2024 Olympics Vote

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh speaks about Boston’s Olympic bid on January 9.
Boston Mayor Martin Walsh speaks about Boston’s Olympic bid on January 9. –AP

Before Boston can take on Rome and other cities across the world to determine who will host the 2024 Olympics, it may first face a fight to win support at home. No Boston Olympics, the group leading the charge against hosting the Games here, has said for months that it is considering bringing a ballot question of some sort to voters.

On Wednesday, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mayor Marty Walsh said he “wouldn’t stand in the way’’ if residents take that action. This seemed to be a departure from his earlier statements on the matter: On January 9, the day after Boston’s selection by the United States Olympic Committee, Walsh said he did not expect a referendum, and had previously said he didn’t see a need for a vote.

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Walsh’s office clarified his comments in a statement late Tuesday afternoon, saying that he isn’t a big fan of the idea himself. The statement read:

Mayor Walsh is not in support of a referendum on the Olympics. He looks forward to engaging in a robust community process and having a two-way conversation with all neighborhoods as we move forward. Should the public decide to collect signatures for a referendum, that is a right of the people that the Mayor fully supports.

Governor Charlie Baker expressed similar thoughts last week on WGBH’s Boston Public Radio, when he said: “If people want to collect signatures to support referendums, they can do that.’’

According to the Journal, the USOC could view the prospect of a referendum as problematic for Boston’s bid. And it could still switch its bidding city. Holding a referendum could be considered a change to the conditions under which Boston was selected by the USOC. The national committee has until September to formally nominate Boston as its bidding city to the International Olympic Committee, with a full bid due in January of 2016.

A poll released earlier Tuesday showed that while 51 percent of Boston-area residents support the bid, they want to have a say in the matter. Three quarters of respondents thought the bid should go to a vote.

A previous poll, released last week, showed 55 percent support for bidding for the Games, but 61 percent opposition if public funds were used.

The USOC said after selecting Boston that it had done some of its own polling in making its decision, and that all four U.S. bidding cities—Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.—showed overall support. The committee called those results “very preliminary’’ and “very topline.’’

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The group leading the bid, Boston 2024, plans to hold its first public meeting Wednesday, and will be releasing the bidding documents it sent to the USOC. Some information will be held from those documents, because the group says it is proprietary.

No Boston Olympics hasn’t committed to the idea of a ballot question, and has said it may take other routes in its opposition effort, such as taking legislative action or lobbying the International Olympic Committee not to choose Boston.

Walsh told the Journal that he expects the public meetings about the bid to help calcify support. In addition to Boston 2024’s meeting, the city is holding monthly meetings starting next week.

The USOC is speaking along similar lines.

“Boston has an exciting vision for the Games. As the public learns more about what the Games could mean for the community, we’re confident the bid will have overwhelming support,’’ USOC spokesperson Patrick Sandusky said in a statement to Boston.com. “We look forward to working with Mayor Walsh and the Boston 2024 team to more fully engage the local community and identify ways we can make the bid even better.’’

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