By Aaron Leibowitz
(This piece was originally published at The Cauldron: https://medium.com/the-cauldron/hey-boston2024-give-it-up-already-e4c16379fdda)
Some people just can’t take a hint.
On Wednesday, WBUR released a statewide survey in Massachusetts that showed 39 percent support for the 2024 Boston Olympic bid and 49 percent opposition.
That confirms what we’ve known for months: Locals don’t want the Olympics in Boston. They didn’t want it when record snowfall crippled the city’s transportation system this past winter, and they don’t want it now.
This September, the United States Olympic Committee can officially submit one American city’s bid for the 2024 Games to the International Olympic Committee, with the host city to be announced in 2017. Boston has no business making it that far. The time is past due for public officials to heed the advice residents have offered at meeting after meeting, in poll after poll, and pull the bid.
To put it another way: You know it’s time to let it go when David Ortiz, Larry Bird, Michelle Kwan, Celtics owner Steve Pagiuca, Patriots owner Bob Kraft and Red Sox owner John Henry all support the bid, and it’s still not enough to sell the people of Boston.
Last fall, behind closed doors, the city organized an unelected team of boosters to obtain the blessing of the USOC. On January 8 at an airport in Denver, the USOC chose Boston as its bid city, over San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. The whole process occurred without any chance for the public to express whether it might want a three-week party — the type that tends to alter the historical course of a city — to come to town.
Since then, it’s been one fiasco after the next. There was the gag order Mayor Marty Walsh signed barring public employees from speaking negatively about the bid. There were questions regarding the acquisition of land, and whether Boston2024 had informed business owners of potential plans. There was the release of boosters’ salaries — after much public pressure — which was met with outrage and led to former governor Deval Patrick relinquishing his Olympic-sized paycheck ($7,500 per day).
More recently, a Freedom of Information Act request by the Boston Business Journal revealed that, despite pledges of no public funding for the Games, Boston2024 will actually need public money to fund land acquisition and infrastructure costs for a temporary Olympic stadium. And on Tuesday, Boston Magazine asked a simple question with no clear answer: Has anyone at Boston City Hall even read the Boston2024 bid book?
Some in the media continue to insist that Greater Boston’s lack of support for Boston2024 is an embarrassment, simply more proof that it’s a city of naysayers and NIMBYs. Those silly Bostonians are acting all curmudgeonly again. They don’t like anything — even the Olympics! Of course, everyone knows the Olympics are “great” for host cities! There aren’t a million and one legitimate reasons to not want this mega-event in your backyard!’
“Dear United States Olympic Committee,” begins Boston Globe columnist Shirley Leung in her May 21 column titled, ‘Dear USOC: We really do want to host the Games.’ “You may think Bostonians don’t want to host the Olympics, but then you don’t know Boston. We love to hate. We love to complain. We love to hate that we complain. We are difficult people. Just ask the British.”
Leung concludes: “Stick with us, USOC. I know we’re trying your patience. But it’ll all come together. It always does. Or it won’t. And we’ll complain about that, too.”
An alternative version of that column, more rooted in the reality of how people here actually think and feel, would look something like this:
“Dear United States Olympic Committee: You may think Bostonians don’t want to host the Olympics, which would mean you’ve seen the polls that show we don’t want to host the Olympics. If you know Boston, you know we love our city. We love to hate ideas that we believe will make it worse. We love to complain about its affordable housing crisis, the closure of public schools, and the failing subway system.
“We’re passionate and critical, and we don’t like when unelected elites impose plans on us while shifting attention away from what really matters. We’ve paid enough attention to past Olympics and to the 2024 bid to have serious, valid concerns about cost overruns, taxpayer funding, mass surveillance, displacement, gentrification, human trafficking, targeting of homeless people, and effects on non-profits. If that makes us difficult people, then yeah, we are a pain in the ass. Just ask Boston2024.”
In the interest of full disclosure, I lived in New York for the first 18 years of my life and have lived in the Boston area since 2010. I have been assisting with grassroots anti-Boston2024 efforts over the past eight months, and I’ve never felt more proud to live here. Watching people organize, ask tough questions, demand their voices be heard, and fight to protect their communities from unwanted outside forces has led me to conclude not that Bostonians are fun-hating, sports-bashing nut jobs, but rather that they know a bad thing when they see it.
If another city wants to host the Olympics, that’s their prerogative. As for Boston, we’ve made our decision clear. The Olympics are not for us. The 2024 bid is not cutting it. Now go away.