Gather around kids. It’s fairy tale time.
There once was a group of people who wanted to bring the Olympics to Boston. They spoke of pageantry and the city’s ability to host the world for a 17-day party. They insisted that Boston, a city where nothing gets done on time or on budget, was ripe for a moment like this, welcoming tens of thousands of athletes, media, and fans to its historic atmosphere. They argued that the financial benefit that Boston would reap – A new stadium! Better public transportation! Tourism! – in the end would be well worth the investment of billions of dollars, not to mention the years of headaches leading up to the 2024 Summer Olympics.
“Boston,” asks Globe columnist Shirley Leung, “are you ready for some Olympic dreamin’?”
Are we really doing this? Despite the fact that the Olympics would work as well in Boston as Cheech and Chong on the New York Stock Exchange floor, the Hub is indeed one of four finalists – San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. are the other three, more worthy candidates – that the U.S. Olympic Committee has tabbed for its possible bid for the Games a decade from now. It’s a disaster waiting to happen, yet one that’s being pushed and perpetrated by a select few with plenty to gain. Is it really a coincidence that Suffolk Construction chief John Fish is at the head of this lunacy? Fish makes oodles of cash, the general public gets a “2024” T-shirt. Bob Kraft gets a shiny, new stadium for his soccer team, financed by a public that doesn’t want the Olympics here in the first place. And, as Leung points out for “NIMBYS” (Not In My Back Yard) like myself, “It will take billions of dollars to put on the games, and we haven’t figured out how to pay for it.”
Well, no matter then. Let’s do some ‘dreamin,’’ shall we?
Have we collectively lost our minds? Just because Atlanta, a sprawling city, mind you, was able to pull off the trick in 1996 in no way should mean that Boston is a realistic candidate for such a venture. Thus, because the critics have come out in such full force over the past two weeks, during which time the U.S. Olympic Committee met in Boston, the drivers of this looney bus are trying to sway the sanity of the public with grand tales of competency and cash.
“Where’s it going to come from,” you ask.
“Who knows,” they answer, “ but can you imagine table tennis at the Convention Center?”
Well, now I’m swayed.
Ask John Henry what it takes to build a new ballpark in Boston. Unsuccessfully. Ask Kraft how his football stadium exploration in South Boston went some two decades ago.
Politics and corruption are just going to bend over backward for the Lords of the Rings? OK.
“I cannot believe the astonishingly naive things I’ve been reading on this subject from some supposedly responsible people,” the Globe’s Bob Ryan wrote earlier this year. “A commission has been formed to study the idea of making a Boston bid for the 2024 Olympics. Its chairman is a Mr. John Fish, who is the chief of Suffolk Construction. I’m sure he’s a fine fellow, but I’m wondering if he went to sleep in 1935 and just awoke for the Sochi Opening Ceremony. ‘If you put politics aside,’ he was quoted as saying in these very pages, ‘I think Russia has done a commendable job organizing the Olympics and managing the process to date.’ That’s a rather, shall we say, intriguing interpretation of the events we’ve all witnessed in the seven years since that fateful day in Guatemala when the summer resort of Sochi was awarded the Winter Olympics.”
Sochi was a borderline disaster, a project barely finished in time for the world to arrive at its gate, and these were the Winter Games, mind you, an undertaking of a much smaller scale than the much larger Summer Olympics. To compare the two is either grasping for reasoning or just plain delusional.
So, let’s see, what would it realistically take? A new stadium for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and track and field events that the city does not need. We’d need expanded seating at the one of the university’s Olympic-sized pools which were never intended to host such a crowd, a matter the committee should realize in 2023 when it recommends building a new facility not in the original budget. Basketball and gymnastics (TD Garden), beach volleyball and racewalking (Boston Common), and crew (the Charles) are the easy ones. But when it comes to where to build an Olympic village, where to house the media, or where to build an aquatic center, the answers come as if decided by darts. Just pick any swath of empty land, and the Olympic hopefuls will explain to you how it’s a possible Olympic venue.
If you didn’t catch last month’s HBO “Real Sports” report on the “White Elephants” of the World Cup and the Olympics, it basically boils down to this: Don’t.
None of it is worth the financial commitment for countries looking to put itself on some sort of international timeline. Have you seen photos of the venues from the 2004 games in Athens, or the ’08 Games in Beijing? They’re wastelands that make the Walpole Mall look like a local hotspot. As Awful Announcing puts it, “The Greek economy collapsed in large part to the massive amount of waste that went into the Olympics a decade ago, with the crumbling stadiums as reminders of that waste.”
Brazil has thrown away billions of dollars on this year’s World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics, despite that fact that millions of its citizens live in poverty. As Real Sports points out, once the World Cup ends, Olympic preparation begins, and homes in Rio de Janeiro will be razed to make room for the venues.
In three years, where families now call home for another month or so, will sit empty stadiums, used for two weeks in 2016 at a cost of billions.
Sochi was the brainchild of Vladimir Putin, who envisioned it being a winter destination for European skiers, a dream that is still in the infancy of its hopes, and one that is an expensive gamble of epic proportions. But in Boston, there’s persistent insistence that the venues wouldn’t go to waste. Because we’re different. OK. So, let’s build a 60,000-seat stadium in South Boston then, and award it to the Krafts afterward. Considering one of the reasons the owners list for the Revolution not succeeding in Foxborough is because of the 68,000-seat stadium, that doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense, now does it? And the Krafts are going to wait 10 (more) years for it to happen? Will the MLS even still be in business?
“Whether we end up hosting the games,” Leung writes, “we owe it to the city to give the Olympics a fair hearing.”
Nope. I’m out. Sorry for being a “naysayer,” or as I like to call it, just having a shred of common sense. I’d love to attend in Los Angeles or San Francisco, just not here.
Please, God, not here.