No Medal for Boston Olympics

 Photo Credit: Winslow Townson/Associated Press

BOSTON — Deep skepticism here about whether taxpayers would be stuck footing the bill for the Olympics has doomed Boston’s bid to host the 2024 Summer Games and raised questions about whether any other major American city might be willing to take on the risk.

The United States Olympic Committee said Monday that it was withdrawing Boston as its proposed bid city because resistance among residents was too great to overcome in the short time that remained before the committee had to formally propose a bid city by Sept. 15.

“We have not been able to get a majority of the citizens of Boston to support hosting the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” Scott Blackmun, the chief executive of the U.S.O.C., said in a statement as he raised the white flag. “Therefore, the U.S.O.C. does not think that the level of support enjoyed by Boston’s bid would allow it to prevail over great bids from Paris, Rome, Hamburg, Budapest or Toronto.”

Mr. Blackmun said that the U.S.O.C. intended to move quickly to prepare a bid from another city. While he did not mention Los Angeles by name, many people involved in the Olympics expect Los Angeles to enter the competition. It has successfully hosted the Olympics twice before and, perhaps most important, it already has the sports infrastructure, including an Olympic stadium, in place, unlike Boston, which would have had to build stadiums and most of that infrastructure from scratch.

The U.S. Olympic Committee terminated Boston’s bid for the 2024 Olympics on Monday, hours after Mayor Martin J. Walsh said he would not commit to a deal “that uses taxpayers dollars to pay” for them.

Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, immediately expressed interest.“I continue to believe that Los Angeles is the ideal Olympic city, and we have always supported the U.S.O.C. in their effort to return the Games to the United States,” he said in a statement. “I would be happy to engage in discussions with the U.S.O.C. about how to present the strongest and most fiscally responsible bid on behalf of our city and nation.”

The mayor of Boston, Martin J. Walsh, had taken a different stance. While he had become the cheerleader in chief for bringing the Games here, he was constantly having to prod Boston 2024, the seemingly tone-deaf private local organizing group, to be more transparent, release documents, scale back salaries and make other adjustments as the bid foundered.

But on Monday morning, Mr. Walsh distanced himself from the bid completely. At a hastily arranged news conference, he announced that if the U.S.O.C. demanded that he sign a host city contract by the end of the day Monday, he would not do so, acknowledging that this would kill Boston’s bid for the Games. He said he had wanted more time to conduct his due diligence on the guarantees required and a full review of a risk and mitigation package proposed last week.

“I cannot commit to putting the taxpayers at risk,” the mayor declared. “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.”

It was not clear whether the mayor knew that the U.S.O.C. was preparing to pull the plug on Boston before he made his defiant announcement. But after the U.S.O.C. did pull the plug, Mr. Walsh told reporters that he thought “they might have made up their mind before my press conference today.”

Either way, the mayor was positioning himself as the voice of fiscal sanity in seeking to protect taxpayers from having to pay for cost overruns, which polling all along had suggested was the central concern of a majority of Boston residents.

In a statement after the U.S.O.C. withdrew, Mr. Walsh said he believed that bringing the Games here would have brought long-term benefits, but added that “no benefit is so great that it is worth handing over the financial future of our City, and our citizens were rightly hesitant to be supportive as a result.”


Photo Credit: Charles Krupa/Associated Press

The desire by the mayor — and Gov. Charlie Baker — for more time to review the financial details ran headlong into the U.S.O.C.’s urgent need to present a winnable bid, and one backed by a majority of residents, by mid-September.

As spending by some Olympic host cities has soared in recent years — costs surrounding last year’s Games in Sochi surpassed $50 billion — many countries have pulled themselves out of contention. Enthusiasm for hosting the 2020 Winter Games is so low that only two cities, Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, have entered bids.

The Summer Games, however, still attract a healthy competition. But whether an American city enters that race remains to be seen.

“The economy is strong, and the city’s self-regard is intact,” he said. “People don’t feel as if they’ve lost something. The mood is good riddance.”

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