Editorial | Boston’s Olympic bid should be heeded with caution
Published: Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, February 11, 2014 09:02
As the small Russian coastal town of Sochi begins to receive the world for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, plans to bring the summer games to Boston in 2024 are already in motion. In November of last year, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick approved an exploratory committee to look into the feasibility of Boston hosting the games. While many obstacles stand in the way of Boston’s bid being chosen, including possible bids from Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Dallas, Philadelphia and San Francisco to win the favor of the U.S Olympic Committee, the most important are not competition from other U.S. cities. Boston will have to solve a myriad of issues, including transportation, housing and cost to citizens before placing a bid in 2015 for the 2024 Summer Games, which will be selected by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2017. As the committee proceeds with constructing a bid, it should move with all due caution and consideration, and examine the proposal from every possible angle.
The first and possibly most pressing problem is transportation. If selected to host, Boston would have to find a way to transport an estimated 500,000 extra people every day during the 16 days of the Olympics. With an already over-capacity Green Line and traffic congestion ranked as ninth worst in the country, massive infrastructure improvements will have to be made in the Boston metropolitan area for any proposal to be taken seriously.
Space is another huge concern, despite the city’s large number of event venues. The IOC requires at least 1 million square feet of space for broadcast and press centers, an Olympic stadium to seat a minimum of 80,000 spectators for both opening and closing ceremonies, an Olympic Village that can sleep 16,000 athletes and 30 to 35 sporting venues. Although Boston already has 43 sports facilities, 29 of these venues are located in eastern Massachusetts, and it has been observed that an athlete village, aquatics center, velodrome for indoor cycling and an Olympic Stadium that can seat at least four times as many people as the TD Garden would all have to be constructed. These massive physical and economic undertakings cannot be taken lightly and residents of the Commonwealth, and indeed the whole of New England, should be asking tough questions about how this will affect their lives and what financial burdens the city will be left with.
Supporters argue that modular housing and arenas could be built and afterwards be converted into public assets such as college housing. However, we must look no further than Beijing to realize that this is not always the case. The Bird’s Nest sports complex that fit 91,000 people during the 2008 Summer Games and cost $480 million to construct now sits as a relic and reminder of a failure in forethought, leaving Beijing with an $11 million maintenance bill every year.
While transportation, accommodation, space and funding are all complex considerations that the committee is taking into account, let us not forget that to truly succeed in hosting the Olympics, ignoring logistical concerns to the gain prestige of hosting the games would ultimately be poor planning and worse public policy.