Why Doesn’t Boston Want the Olympics?

Olympic LogoThe Olympics are a time of worldwide celebration. They allow us to take a break as individuals and share the world’s stage in competition and cultural festivities. History is made, amazingly inspirational stories are recanted, there is fun and profitable Olympic betting happening, and the entire spectacle of the ceremonies make the world “ooh” and “aah” in unison. It’s a magical event that brings humanity together to watch and share in. Why would you not want that in your city? A chance to be the centerpiece of the world, if only for a couple of weeks, The Olympics sounds like every Mayor’s dream.

But taking on the enormous financial responsibility of hosting the games is not something that Mayor Martin J. Walsh wants for the city of Boston. What is often swept under the rug are the debilitating costs associated with venues that will undoubtedly go un-used immediately following the games. Look no further than Athens in 2004, where now 21 of the 22 Olympic venues are in extreme disrepair, and continue to be unusable and unsellable. Immediately following the closing ceremonies, 70,000 Greek industry jobs were simply eliminated.

There can be plus sides though. A prime example would be the city of Atlanta from 1996. While the city itself is a sprawling expanse offering the most “natural areas” of almost any other city in the country, plans were specifically laid out to regenerate certain areas with individual event resources that provide future use either locally or through tourism. The Atlanta Braves are still playing in an Olympic venue. A lot of locals forget that fact. The city of Atlanta itself is more summer-friendly with regards to year round activities involving warm weather. Nobody is going to be checking out the Olympic Equestrian Center in Boston in March, but it is in full swing year round in the South.

Walsh has refused to let misguided hope and optimism skew the very real possibility of the damages that hosting the Olympics can do saying, “I will not sign a document that puts one dollar of taxpayers’ money on the line for one penny of overruns on the Olympics,” and that he would “refuse to mortgage the future of the city away.”

So that’s where we are now. Boston is out of the conversation, but is a willing partner in working with other cities in the US to find a place that is most viable for profiting through extended use of facilities as well as balancing the job markets for workers even after the Olympics have passed. On the list of cities for consideration are Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington DC. While LA is often referred to as the “dream Olympic city” for the US, the thought of LA traffic during the opening ceremonies should be enough for locals to impart a mass-exodus for the games themselves and come back once the visitors have left. It is a daunting task that will be measured by the world for whoever takes on the challenge.

Regardless of where the Olympics end up, it’s going to continue to an overwhelming party to host. One with a guest list of around 7.125 Billion people. Hats off to Boston for realizing the undertaking before it is too late while simultaneously helping to find a more viable option. Let’s all work together to find a better venue and solution so that the Olympic goals of unity and prosperity can truly be realized.