Olympic bidding group facing political pressures

Boston is bidding to host the 2024 Olympics.
Boston is bidding to host the 2024 Olympics. –AP

Regular polling. Celebrity endorsements. Window signs and bumper stickers. And next week, a televised debate.

In case it wasn’t clear already, Boston’s bid for the 2024 Olympics has become political.

It has been a for a while, really. But a number of circumstances this week drove the point home even further.

Debate night in Boston

A two-on-two, hour-long debate will air on FOX25 and stream on BostonGlobe.com Thursday at 8 p.m. The debate will give both Olympic planners and their opponents a chance to make their cases to what will likely be their widest audience yet.

Boston 2024 Chairman Steve Pagliuca and board member Dan Doctoroff, who led New York City’s 2012 bid, will face off against Chris Dempsey, co-chair of opposition group No Boston Olympics, and Andrew Zimbalist, a Smith College professor who has written critically about the economics of hosting the games.

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The debate comes as Boston 2024 seeks to boost public support from 42 percent statewide, a metric the United States Olympic Committee has deemed important. The USOC must determine by September 15 whether to move forward with Boston’s bid.

One step closer to a vote

Evan Falchuk, a third-party candidate for governor last year, has led the charge to put the Olympics to a ballot question. This week, he officially filed his proposed question with the attorney general’s office, the first step to get it in front of voters come next November’s presidential election.

Falchuk’s question is not about whether or not to host the games. Rather, it asks whether state money should be barred from the process, excluding some infrastructure projects. (Boston 2024 has said it plans to provide voters with a separate question at the same election, asking plainly whether or not to host the games.)

Eventually, Falchuk will need to collect tens of thousands of signatures to put his question on ballots. To collect those signatures, he has partnered with leaders of a ballot question group from last election, which campaigned against pinning the state’s gas tax to inflation. They won.

Where’s the gov?

Gov. Charlie Baker’s position on the bid will play a massive, if not absolute, role in determining its fate. But he hasn’t taken one yet. He remains on the sidelines, waiting on a state-hired consultancy to bring back a study of the fiscal risks the bid could present.

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Asked Wednesday whether the findings of the study will result in a clear sense for where Baker stands on the bid, the governor said in a video interview with The Boston Globe, “that’s a hard question to answer.’’ It’s going to depend, he said, on what the report says.

Baker said the report will seek to understand things like Boston 2024’s expectations of the state, and fair compensation for state-owned property related to the Olympics. It will also analyze Boston 2024’s proposed budget, he said.

And at the city council…

Boston City Councilor Tito Jackson early in the week set a Friday deadline on Boston 2024 to release unseen early bidding documents to the public. Friday afternoon, Boston 2024 CEO Rich Davey sent Jackson a letter declining to do so. Instead, Davey urged Jackson to focus on the newest version of the bid published last month, as well as a financial disclosure report also published in June.

Jackson doesn’t appear finished with his request. In response, his office said the councilor plans to hold a Monday morning news conference to discuss “his plan to seek more transparency from Boston 2024.’’

At issue are two of the six chapters of Boston 2024’s original plan from last year, which helped the group win the USOC’s selection as the nation’s bidding city. In January, Boston 2024 presented the bid to the public. But it had been edited from its original form, and it wasn’t until months later that public records requests led to the unveiling of the first four chapters in full. Two unedited chapters still remain to be seen.

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Boston 2024 says the full version of the original bid includes “proprietary information’’ that it is not at liberty to disclose. The group also argues the old bid is just that—old—and that its new bid is more representative of its plan.

Jackson told The Boston Business Journalhe feels the full details of the original bid are still important, because they provide a basis of comparison to the new bid. Jackson also told FOX25 he wants to know what Boston 2024 told the USOC to win the nation’s bid.

One of the chapters Jackson hopes to see features Boston 2024’s proposed budget at the time.

The other? The group’s public and political support.

Boston’s Olympic bid: The major players

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