US Olympic Committee Chief Remains Confident in Boston Bid

USOC Chairman Larry Probst (left) and CEO Scott Blackmun in December.
USOC Chairman Larry Probst (left) and CEO Scott Blackmun in December. –USA Today Sports

The United States Olympic Committee remains confident in Boston’s bid to host the 2024 Summer Games, its leaders said in a Friday afternoon conference call with reporters.

The conference call followed a USOC board of directors meeting in Washington, D.C., at which bid organizing group Boston 2024 gave an update of its own progress.

“I think Boston is where they need to be right now,’’ said USOC CEO Scott Blackmun.

Multiple reporters referred to weak polling relative to Bostonians’ support of the bid.

“Do we wish the approval ratings were higher than 44 percent? Absolutely we do,’’ Blackmun said. “But candidly, it’s much more important that those numbers be high two and a half years from now than it is that they be high now.’’

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Larry Probst, the USOC’s chairman, said the committee put similar questions to Boston 2024 earlier in the day. He said they handled the questions “successfully.’’ And Blackmun said the discussion turned to the reasons the USOC chose Boston as its bid city in the first place, such as the proximity of proposed venues to one another and the ability to make use of existing venues in the city and the region.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has said he would like to see 70 percent support for the idea of hosting by 2017, when the International Olympic Committee will choose a 2024 host.

Walsh said earlier this week on Greater Bostonthat he felt Boston 2024’s disclosure of staff and consultant pay—which included a $7,500 per diem rate for former Gov. Deval Patrick, who will work to woo IOC members—would set public support back in the short term. But he said it was important to make the information available to the public. Boston 2024 declined to do so until Walsh sent out a statement urging it to release staff and consultant salaries.

On Friday, Blackmun said the USOC is “100 percent in favor of transparency.’’ Asked if the USOC was told ahead of time that Boston 2024 would disclose things like its salary or, in January, its bidding documents, Blackmun said: “Yes, we were given a heads up on all of that news, and we fully support it.’’ He said the salary information would become public eventually anyway, through IRS nonprofit filings. Doing so now, he said, was a way to “get out a little bit ahead of the curve’’ in an effort to “take away as many questions as we can.’’

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Blackmun said he felt that as Boston 2024 holds more public meetings in the city and state, support will grow stronger. “I think that after this process runs its course, the people in Boston will have confidence on the most important issue of all here, which is, can we do this without tapping into the resources of the city of Boston?’’ he said. “I think the answer to that question is going to be yes.’’

Boston 2024’s plans call for private funding to cover the costs of operating the games. However, terms of past host city contracts with the IOC suggest the city would have to guarantee to cover any cost overruns if Boston 2024 cannot. That guarantee has become a major point of criticism for Olympic opponents, such as No Boston Olympics.

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