Last week, Boston 2024, the group trying to bring the Olympics to Boston that year, finally unveiled most of the documents that they submitted to the US Olympic Committee as part of their bid to host the games.
The group initially balked at the idea of releasing the bid documents to the public at all. In a WGHB appearance, the group's president Dan O'Connell said they would not release the documents, even as he failed to give coherent reason why.
The next day, the group partially reversed its stance and agreed to release most of the documents. Last Wednesday, they released the documents and put on an encore of the presentation they gave to the USOC that secured their position as the United States' potential host city.
Now that the documents have been public for several days and journalists have had time to digest them, one possible motivation behind the group's initial stance has become clear: the bid documents contain lies.
The Boston Globereported that while the bid documents claim Boston 2024 has "engaged" in talks with the the owners of private lands they hope to build on, that simply is not the case. A number of landowners told the Globe they had not been contacted and have no intention of selling their property to be used for the Olympics. Some even said they were already in the process of developing properties sought by Boston 2024 for other purposes.
Boston 2024 has tried to ease concerns about its failure to contact these landowners by pointing out that the proposal in the bid documents is not final and subject to change, but this does not explain why the group lied to the USOC and the public.
But as disturbing as the lies in these documents are, equally concerning is the fact that the group hasn't even released its full bid to the public yet. As The Boston Globereported, "they said they withheld details on potential land and venue costs to protect their negotiating position if Boston wins the Olympics."
A budget document released by Boston 2024 lays out several expected costs: a $4.7 billion operating budget, a $3.4 billion development budget, and $5.2 billion in transportation and infrastructure improvements. Boston 2024 claims that their budget "does not rely on a single tax dollar and limits Olympics-based public investment to roadway, transportation and infrastructure improvements, most of which are already planned and are needed with or without the Olympics," but they're not in a position to promise that.
Between 1976 and 2012, the average cost overrun for Olympic games has been more than 200 percent and the International Olympic Committee requires the host city to cover cost overruns. Considering this history, it's impossible to take seriously the idea that no tax money will be spent on the Olympics to begin with, but it inspires even less confidence when the group behind the bid has already been caught lying to the public and isn't even willing to release their expected land and venue costs.
Furthermore, in emphasizing their promise to not spend any tax money on the games themselves, Boston 2024 seems to be trying to obscure all the other ways taxpayers will be affected by the Olympics:
- The Olympics would use a great deal of public land. The budget document released by Boston 2024 states that 75% of the land they hope to use would be either public- or university-owned. To give one example, the group hopes to build a volleyball stadium on Boston Common. Given that Boston 2024 has lied about the willingness of many private landowners to sell their property for use in the Olympics, they may end up needing even more public land. Boston 2024 even wants to create a quasi-public agency to manage land for the Olympics, which could cost taxpayers.
- Hosting the Olympics will mean that many public roads will have special lanes reserved solely for people involved with the games. During the 2012 Olympics in London, these special lanes created massive headaches for other drivers. Even ambulances were excluded from the lanes. Earlier this month, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh fired a city worker for taking part in a protest that disrupted traffic and reportedly delayed an ambulance, but, as an Olympics booster, he's apparently fine with a sporting event doing the same thing.
- Taxpayers will be on the hook for all the security costs associated with the Olympics, which The Boston Globereported will likely be a billion dollars or more. The costs would likely be paid for by the federal government, so Massachusetts residents won't be solely responsible, but it's still not a negligible amount of money.
Evan Falchuk, the former gubernatorial candidate and leader of the United Independent Party, has said he is working on a statewide referendum on whether Boston will be allowed to host the Olympics. Falchuk announced Thursday that he had filed the necessary paperwork to create a ballot question committee.
“Boston 2024 officials seemed to be glossing over the more difficult issues hosting the Olympics most definitely will entail,” Falchuk said in a press release. “Raising critical questions about the billions the Games would cost, as well as security and traffic concerns, doesn’t make anyone a ‘naysayer.' It makes us taxpaying, thinking adults who see the value of putting things like our seniors, veterans, and kids in school above something like hosting the Olympics.”