A Boston Olympics would be a “major reinvestment” in Franklin Park and a “catalyst” for improvements to Jamaica Plain, Boston 2024 President Dan O’Connell, told the Gazette during an exclusive interview last week. If JPers disagree, Boston 2024 would find other sites, Dan O’Connell added.
But Boston 2024—the private committee planning the local Olympics—will not hold any public meetings to gain such input unless Boston is chosen as the United States’ official Olympics bidding city, a decision expected next month, O’Connell said.
“It would be a waste of people’s time” to host public meetings if Boston is not selected as the U.S.’s choice city, O’Connell said during an interview at Boston 2024’s Innovation District headquarters, a nondescript office of cubicles and modest decorations.
Lack of public input on the still-secret bid has been a growing source of controversy and sparked a Jamaica Plain-based Olympic protest movement. At the debut meeting of the protest group last month, a Boston 2024 official said a public meeting schedule would be released shortly. But O’Connell made it clear that there will be no meetings scheduled unless and until Boston’s bid is chosen.
If Boston is chosen out of the four finalists—also including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.—O’Connell said, Boston 2024 would follow the lead of elected officials on how to interact with the community.
If, for example, “[City Councilor] Matt O’Malley came to me and said there is no support [in his district] for using Franklin Park as a venue, we would look elsewhere” for another option, he said, noting that at least one alternate site has already been identified on the North Shore.
He added that Boston 2024 would host meetings in communities that have expressed an interest in the process.
Likewise, if elected official decide the public input process would be better run through local government instead of through Boston 2024, O’Connell would agree.
“We will follow their lead,” he said. “It’s hard for me to decide who’s a representative community group, but they would know things like that.”
“We ask for openness. If you’re starting with an opposing view, it’s hard to have a conversation,” he said.
Boston 2024 separately announced earlier this month that it will create a community advisory committee open to anyone who expresses an interest and with no size limit. Boston 2024 spokesperson David Wedge told the Gazette during the interview that about 130 people have already expressed an interest in serving on that committee.
O’Connell said the advisory committee would likely get split up into smaller working groups, based on area of focus—such as transportation and security—to make it more manageable.
O’Connell also said he is “unsure” about how open the bid and the bid process can be going forward. None of the four short-listed cities have had extensive community processes, he said.
“But we’ve not turned down a single invitation” from any groups hosting discussions, he said. “I’ve always deferred to community groups to invite me.”
No other sites in JP are being considered as a potential venue, O’Connell added.
“The focus has been on the Emerald Necklace,” he said. “It’d be a tragedy if Franklin Park wasn’t considered for a venue…I think the Games could be a catalyst” to drive investments in public infrastructure like expanding public transportation through JP, he said.
Franklin Park is “not in the best shape,” O’Connell added. The Olympic budget would include fees to restore the park to a higher standard.
“We could make a major reinvestment,” he said.
Boston 2024 is mostly composed of representatives of major corporations and large colleges, including Suffolk Construction and Harvard University. It does have one JP resident among its subgroup of athlete members—Nicole Freedman, a former Olympic cyclist and current head of the City’s bicycle program.
If the U.S. Olympic Committee approves Boston’s proposal next month, Boston will be one of dozens of cities worldwide under consideration to host the games. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) decision is expected in 2017.
Potential venues are among the factors considered in the bidding process. But a list of venues would only become final in later stages, when the IOC gets involved.
The Boston 2024 committee’s website is 2024boston.org and it is on Twitter at @Boston2024. No Boston Olympics, an opposition group, has its website at nobostonolympics.org and its Twitter account at @NoBosOlympics. JP’s anti-Olympics activists have a website at bostonagainstolympics.bid and are on Twitter at @no_boston2024.