Rich Davey, CEO of Boston 2024, asked a half-filled Robsham Theater Wednesday night if anyone was skeptical about the prospects of Boston hosting the Olympics. A few hesitant hands surfaced. An hour and a half later, when the question and answer period began, a larger number of Boston 2024 opposers spoke their minds.
A panel of leaders from the Boston 2024 campaign, including Davey, Vice President of Engagement and External Affairs Nikko Mendoza, Kent Knight of Elkus Manfredi Architects, and Molly Schaus, former Olympian and BC ’11, presented Boston 2024 Bid 2.0, the revamped Olympic proposal that was released earlier this week.
The revised bid places a heavy emphasis on the benefits the Olympic Games would bring to Boston, and the improvements to the city’s public transportation, infrastructure, and security.
Davey emphasized that this bid has been enhanced by the team’s effort to incorporate citizen participation from across the state—there have been 22 community meetings in the last five months to gauge what should be changed in the bid proposal. Davey used to be the Transportation Secretary and previously doubted that Boston could host the Games, he said, but now believes it is possible.
“I became convinced that this can be a winning bid for Boston,” he said. “This could be good if we do it right.”
The long-term benefits spelled out in the bid proposal include economic development with 51,000 new jobs in 2024, investment in the community, an expanded tax base, and more affordable housing. In addition, Boston 2024 would act as a catalyst for improving the MBTA system in regards to bus procurement and signal upgrades for the Green, Orange, and Red lines, according to the bid.
Despite the positive benefits outlined in Bid 2.0, members of the community felt that the Games would not live up to the image painted by the panel. Toward the end of the meeting, which lasted nearly an hour past its two-hour projected run time, several audience members spoke up against the project.
Nia Evans, a vice chair of the Boston Branch of the NAACP, asked the panel about minority and low-income communities, and how they will be affected by the games. She mentioned that for these communities, better MBTA service is seen as gentrification.
“When we talk about risk, is there an understanding in Boston 2024 about not just financial risk, but social risk?” she said.
Boston 2024 could do better in this regard, Davey said, mentioning that Mayor Martin J. Walsh, WCAS ’09, is extremely committed to these social problems as well.
Later, a woman who identified herself as an alderman for Newton, Mass., asked about public input for the various construction projects. She noted that, in her experience, it takes time to gather public input before a project can be constructed, and that it seems that the seven years between the announcement of the bid and the Olympics in 2024 will not be enough time. Others asked about the poor transportation system, potential for blocked travel routes during construction, and insurance policies. One woman compared Boston 2024 to the Big Dig, the flawed mega-construction project that ended in 2007, noting that the city is still paying for it decades after it was supposed to end.
Setti Warren, the mayor of Newton, Mass. and BC ’93, closed the community meeting with an encouragement for members of the Boston area to work together.
“We think about a lot of things,” he said. “At the end of the day it’s really up to the citizens of my city and the Commonwealth and the possibility for it to move in the right directions …. What kind of city do we want to be in the next 20 to 30 years?”
Featured Image by Carolyn Freeman / Heights Editor