Citizens and journalists who have been trying for months to learn exactly what Boston 2024 promised to the United States Olympic Committee last year may be on the verge of an important breakthrough. Boston city councilor Tito Jackson says he is set to “explore all options” to force the group to disclose the two secret chapter of it's bid book. Jackson has called a press conference for 10:00 a.m. on Monday morning, where he plans to elaborate.
In late January, under pressure from the media and opposition groups, Boston 2024 released what it claimed to be “the presentation materials it gave to the U.S. Olympic Committee during its pitch in December.” Boston 2024 put the same materials on its website, describing them as “a copy of the Boston 2024 documents presented to the USOC.” These documents are what Boston 2024 has described as “Bid 1.0.” It describes the revamped draft presented in June as “Bid 2.0.”
In fact—as The Bay State Examiner was one of the first media outlets to point out—the documents released in January omitted significant details that had been included in the presentation to the USOC.
At the end of May, Boston Magazine and the Boston Business Journal obtained the first four chapters of the full bid book via a public records request sent to the researchers at the University of Massachusetts (who wrote a slanted economic impact report on the Olympic bid).
From the first four chapters of the bid book, we learned—in the polite phrasing of The New York Times—that there was a “discrepancy between the bid book and what Boston 2024 told the public” about the need for public funding for the Olympics. In other words, as this outlet put it, when Boston 2024 “repeatedly claimed that no taxpayer funds would be used for the games except on security,” they were “lying liars... telling Olympic-sized lies.”
Two obvious questions followed.
First, did Marty Walsh read the bid book before he signed it? Second, what’s in the unredacted version of the book?
Regarding the first question, follow-up inquiries have revealed that when Mayor Walsh said in December, “I have read the bid,” he meant his lawyers read the bid. Except, his lawyers say they never got it. Ultimately, the city was forced to admit that no one at City Hall ever reviewed the bid. (We’ll leave for another day the metaphysics of how it’s possible to sign a bid without receiving it.)
The second question has not yet been answered. At a June 1 meeting in Arlington—the week after Chapters 1 through 4 had been exposed—I asked Boston 2024 whether it would commit to releasing Chapters 5 and 6. Boston 2024 spokeswoman Nikko Mendoza said no. Two days later, the Boston Business Journal asked the same question. Boston 2024 again said no.
A few weeks later, Tito Jackson asked for Chapters 5 and 6. Boston 2024 CEO Richard Davey said he’d take Jackon’s request “under advisement,” and that he needed to review the nondisclosure agreements in place with the USOC. (According to the Boston Business Journal, Boston 2024 “later clarified that the agreement Davey [was] referring to is a verbal agreement.” Again, this raises some interesting metaphysical questions that we will leave for another day).
Last week, Jackson set a deadline, demanding that Boston 2024 turn over the full bid book provided to the USOC in December by 5:00 pm on Friday. On Friday afternoon, Boston 2024 sent Jackson a letter blowing him off, and suggesting that it would continue to withhold the full Bid 1.0. That seems like an unwise move on Boston 2024's part because Jackson has not been shy about using the city council’s subpoena power in the past, and it seems likely that he will push for the city council to use that power here to compel the production of the full bid book.
It’s hard to imagine that Boston 2024’s arguments for withholding the bid book will carry much weight with the rest of the Boston city council. By my estimation, they have zero chance in front of a judge if the council votes to issue a subpoena. Boston 2024 has offered two reasons for withholding the bid book, neither of which makes any sense.
First, Boston 2024 claims Chapters 5 and 6 must be withheld “to preserve the confidentiality of information provided by the United States Olympic Committee and to protect the privacy interests of Boston 2024’s donors.”
This is the same group that claims to have released a full list of all its donors—including the amounts donated. As for the USOC, the bid book was a document given by Boston 2024 to the USOC. It’s nonsensical to suggest that there is confidential information provided by the USOC in Boston 2024’s bid book.
Second is Boston 2024’s catch-all argument that “Bid 2.0 is the plan we are moving forward with,” so Bid 1.0 is irrelevant.
Of course, Boston 2024 still shamelessly trumpets a UMass economic impact report that was based on the now supposedly irrelevant Bid 1.0. Moreover, we need to see the full Bid 1.0 in order to know what’s been left out of Bid 2.0. If we had never seen the unredacted versions of the first four chapters, for example, we never would have known that the projected costs of the Olympic Stadium in Bid 2.0 were “more than double” the costs projected in Bid 1.0. Meanwhile, the projected costs of the media center were slashed by 89% from $473.6 million in Bid 1.0 to just $51 million in Bid 2.0.
If these are the best arguments that Boston 2024 has, it seems unlikely that they will be able to prevent the eventual release of Chapters 5 and 6. And delaying their release has come at significant cost.
Boston 2024 has burned a lot of political capital with a city council that has the power to kill its Olympic bid with a single vote. And it has ensured another round of stories on its lack of transparency in the days leading up to a televised debate that represents Boston 2024’s last, best chance to turn the tide of public opinion.
It’s hard to see how it makes sense for Boston 2024 to endanger its entire bid in order to delay the release of Chapters 5 and 6 by a few weeks—unless those chapters contain something truly scandalous. I can’t wait to find out.