It’s been the biggest story in Boston for months, and now, all of sudden, it’s over. Boston is out of the running for the 2024 Summer Olympics.
If you were a Boston 2024 booster, today started on an ominous note. At a hastily arranged press conference, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh told the US Olympic Committee that, if he had to sign a contract today making Boston liable for cost overruns, our Olympic bid was finished.
“We have met every demand and every challenge, but I cannot commit to putting the taxpayers at risk. If committing to signing a guarantee today is what's required to move forward, then Boston is no longer pursuing the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic games,” said Walsh.
At the time, it wasn’t clear whether Walsh was playing hardball, or the bid was already dead, and Walsh was trying to save face. Either way, the mayor was defiant.
“I will not regret it at all,” said Walsh. “There’s a potential there now regardless of what happens with the Olympics that we could develop Widett Circle into hundreds of millions in tax revenue, and build out another part of our city. Harbor point, Columbia Point, where we potentially could build 6000 units of housing to fall in line with our housing plan.”
And then, this afternoon, another press conference left Olympics opponents cheering.
“We’ve been informed that the USOC and Boston 2024 released a joint statement stepping back from the Boston 2024 bid to represent the US,” said Charlie Baker. “And I guess what I would say is, that is certainly their call.”
Like Walsh, he praised Boston 2024 chairman Steve Pagliuca. And like Walsh, he said the bid process had spurred creative thinking about development. But while Walsh dismissed Olympics opponents as, “ten people on Twitter,” Baker was more respectful.
“There’s been a pretty robust conversation about it, and look. I’ve lived here my whole life. One of the things I like about living in Massachusetts is we do have loud policy and political debates on stuff like this.”
One final point to ponder: the USOC didn’t cite Mayor Walsh’s refusal to sign that contract as a deal breaker. Instead, it blamed weak public support, noting that supporters just couldn’t get a majority of Bostonians to back the bid.