Dan O’Connell, the president of Boston 2024 and CEO of the group Massachusetts Competitive Project, sat down with WGBH to discuss Boston’s bid for the Olympics and in the eight minute video, O’Connell only managed to confirm the concerns raised by Olympics detractors.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has "promise[d] that this will be the most open and transparent and inclusive process in Olympic history," which may be why the public has been kept out of the bid process entirely up through the present. Detractors point to this lack of transparency as a red flag that the Boston 2024 bid will not benefit the general public of Massachusetts.
O’Connell pointed out that the media will be shown the bid documents and will hear the Boston 2024 presentation as it was made to the United States Olympic Committee. This will take place on January 21, but he also says the documents won’t be distributed and that he was unsure if any photography of the documents would be allowed. O’Connell explains this is because the documents are not current and when pressed as to why they won’t simply be released with the date stamped on them and with a note saying that they are not current, O’Connell responded: “I think it’s time to move forward with the real bid now and we feel that the discussions can be most productively focused on that and that’s why these nine community meetings that the mayor has announced around the neighborhoods in Boston.”
The present plan then, whatever that may be, will not be visible to the public either, meaning the bid isn't truly being made public.
Detractors point out that the public has never been asked if they want the Olympics and that the public hasn't had a say in if the Olympics will come to Boston.
When asked directly if there was anything that members of the public could say at the meetings that would cause Boston to pull the 2024 bid, O’Connell said that he expects the public meetings to lead to the bid getting “modified” but that “it’s a question of putting forward the best bid we can.” This closed door process is set to happen regardless of public opinion.
Another issue raised was an alarming report that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) favored Boston because of the post-Marathon Bombing police lockdown, which The Nation’s David Zirin previously reported on. The lockdown, with its door-to-door, warrantless home searches and flexing of military-style police might should be a reason to keep away from Boston, not a selling point. Yet O’Connell responded to a question about if the lockdown factored into Boston’s bid in the eyes of the IOC by saying, "I think we showed a high level of coordination among local and state public enforcement in the unfortunate tragedy of the marathon bombing and I’m sure it was noted internationally."
The coordination after the bombing led to innocent peoples' homes being sprayed with bullets in two neighborhoods, two officers being shot in friendly fire incidents (including one who almost died), and another officer firing into a Massachusetts State Police vehicle, nearly shooting two other cops who were inside. While I wouldn’t characterize these events as being well-coordinated, Boston did prove that it has the regional police resources to impose martial law, an apparent positive in the eyes of the IOC.
Lastly, the critics point to the tax burden on the public for hosting the games, which will cost billions of tax dollars. It is crazy that a small group of unelected folks can sign the taxpayers of Massachusetts up to foot billions of dollars with no input, but the bid is already in and the public has already been completely excluded from the discussion.
Evan Falchuck, the former gubernatorial candidate, has voiced support for a statewide vote over hosting the Olympics. Mayor Walsh ought to take up this torch as well, given his commitment to inclusiveness and considering that he is suing to allow the residents of Charlestown to vote on the Everett casino bid, but Walsh claims that not even the citizens of Boston should be allowed to vote on the Olympics.
If the folks behind the Olympics wanted the public's input, they'd have asked, but the only thing want from the public is billions of tax dollars... and they aren't asking for it.
Correction (1/17/15): Since the WGBH program aired, Boston 2024 has partially reversed its position and agreed to release bid documents to the public as well as news media, except for documents which contain "proprietary information."