All eyes on Mass. gov. as Boston’s Olympic bid faces another test

Gov. Charlie Baker will speak with the United States Olympic Committee, but he’s not ready to take a position on Boston’s bid.

Gov. Charlie Baker’s support—or lack thereof—has become key to the fate of Boston’s Olympic bid.
Gov. Charlie Baker’s support—or lack thereof—has become key to the fate of Boston’s Olympic bid. –REUTERS

On January 8, just hours after his inauguration as Massachusetts’s new governor, Charlie Baker was hit with a pretty big announcement: Boston had been selected by the United States Olympic Committee as its bidding city for the 2024 Summer Games.

More than six months later, Baker still hasn’t taken a position on whether or not he supports the bid—even as pressure has started to build on him to do so.

Since his campaign last year, Baker has referred to the bid as a positive civic planning exercise, but not something he could get behind without more research. In the spring, he and other state leaders hired a consultancy to study the bid. A report is due before the end of the summer, and Baker has consistently said he won’t take a stance until he has the findings in front of him.

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Since Baker’s first day in office, Boston’s bid has been subject to significant public scrutiny. Polls have shown support ranging from tepid to abysmal. In pitching Boston to the USOC last year, bidding group Boston 2024 said opposition was limited and a referendum, now planned for next year, unlikely.

While the USOC chose Boston in January from a pool including Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, it has until Sept. 15 to formally nominate an American bidding city. The weak polling has brought questions of whether the bid would be dropped, and the USOC’s contract with Boston 2024 makes it easy to pull the plug. Rumors—which were consistently denied throughout the spring—have persisted that the USOC could look to switch to Los Angeles before the September deadline.

The USOC has scheduled a phone meeting for Monday, just days before a big International Olympic Committee meeting in Malaysia, to talk about the state of Boston’s bid.

Enter Baker, who will be dialing in to the USOC. Multiple reports say the USOC wants Baker to give a sense for where he stands. Without the sitting Republican governor’s support, the Olympic bid could go kaputz. (Baker’s predecessor—Democrat Deval Patrick—and opponent last fall—Martha Coakley—both supported the bid.)

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“We have always said that the success of this bid will require majority public support and the unified backing of state and city political leadership,’’ USOC CEO Scott Blackmun said in a statement.

However, Baker may not have much to offer the USOC one way or the other on Monday. The governor again told reporters Friday that he won’t take a position on the bid until he has gotten the results of the report the state commissioned. Of the upcoming call with the USOC, he said: “My message to them is going to be the same as my message is to you.’’

A USOC member, meanwhile, told The Boston Herald she would not be surprised if the bid’s fate came to a vote Monday.

“I appreciate the fact that the timing in all of this is frustrating,’’ Baker said Friday.

Boston’s Olympic bid: The players

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