Thanks to the JP activists who have begun sticking up for our parks and all Boston residents against an out-of-control, secret Olympics plan. That they held the first community meeting about a Boston Olympics—and the only one prior to bid submission—speaks volumes about the validity of this scheme.
In combination with community reporting by the Gazette and the Dorchester Reporter, and pressure from select Boston Globe columnists, this activism already has forced the Boston 2024 committee to make some transparency pledges.
Of course, that does not mean there will actually be any meaningful input. Indeed, there is no mechanism to hold Boston 2024 officials to it, and no clear plan for what they will do with that input. Boston 2024 has promised community meetings. But all it has delivered is a secretly crafted bid—to the U.S. Olympic Committee, not to any of us. They won’t show you the actual bid document, but they’ll give you a T-shirt and a tote bag.
Looking at what happened to a public park in London during the last summer Olympics—fenced off from public use for a year, despite public protest—the neighborhood stakes become clear. Other issues range from taxpayer liability to militarized security to displacement of existing businesses and perhaps homes.
Every signal from Boston 2024 is that, in baking its Olympics cake, it considers public input to be icing, not flour. There is a reason we do not conduct urban planning and redevelopment on the principle of “trust me,” yet that is what Boston 2024 has been allowed to do thus far by compliant city leaders. Do you trust Harvard University, Suffolk Construction or Bain Capital? These are among the self-interested entities represented on Boston 2024.
Meanwhile, with the bid already filed, public leverage is rapidly vanishing. If the USOC selects Boston as its winning bid, then the politics around public input is no longer, “Do we want a Boston Olympics?”; it is, “Do we want to risk not having a U.S. Olympics at all?” That’s a clever way to stack a deck against skeptics.
If Boston ends up winning the Olympics, that means obeying the whims and dictates of the International Olympics Committee, whose membership includes dukes, princes, sheiks and, incredibly, Henry Kissinger (in an honorary seat). Their main interests are pleasing corporate sponsors. If normal residents get any seat at the table, it will be at the farthest possible end.
It is rare that we advise saying “absolutely no” to a project. But the Olympics bid is breathtaking in its dubious assumptions, potential negative impacts, and sleight-of-hand “process.” Thus far, saying no is all that has worked. Thanks to those saying it loudly and often.