Editorial: Seeing through the Olympics game

Without a single public meeting, without talking to a single park advocate, a Boston Olympics bid is now moving forward with national momentum behind it and JP and Franklin Park in its sights.

We warned you before that the Olympics works like this: placating the public with nonsense until it’s too late. We will warn you now that it will continue working this way. Those public meetings, those pledges of no tax dollars spent, are not improvements or changes to the process. They are simply Phase 2 of the misdirection essential to pulling this scam.

Flattery will get you everywhere, the saying goes, and it has gotten a Boston Olympics this far. Boston 2024 has plainly convinced the mayor he is in charge of the process and has hit some kind of jackpot. Many members of the public and the press are brimming—quite rightfully—with local pride and believe the forthcoming meetings reflect a new “transparency.”

The problem is that—aside from the fact that Boston is already a marvelous city—none of this is true.

The Olympics are an entirely private corporate business deal. The public and the mayor have no direct control over it or input on it. There is no law, no vote, no commission, no mechanism. Even the tycoons behind Boston 2024 have little power at this point. The real puppetmaster is the private U.S. Olympics Committee, and, if Boston is chosen to host the Games, the equally private International Olympics Committee—which is not even in this country, let alone this city. The public meetings offer an illusion of control; one of them is actually slated for after the final bid is due.

There is no shame in being tricked by this level of game-player. After all, while everyone knows the Olympics, very few are familiar with its weird and obscure bidding processes and funding mechanisms. In this case, most of us are like newbie card players pulling up a chair to James Bond’s high-stakes poker game in “Casino Royale.”

Boston 2024 has exploited our ignorance to seed the boosterism with a couple of false premises. One is the ahistorical notion that the Games are a combination of blank slate and pot of gold, a pure opportunity to “dream” rather than a coldly calculated business scheme with an ugly track record. The other is the pleasant yet irrational idea that because Boston is exceptional in many ways, it will force the Olympics to be exceptional, too.

These ideas don’t survive even an hour or two of Googling “Olympics.” Look at Olympics bid history. It always involves deliberate secrecy and key promises broken intentionally and otherwise.

Look at the Olympics present. Right now, for the 2016 Games, Rio is kicking people out of their homes to build a cable car and cutting down a nature reserve to build a golf course. What kind of organization approves and condones that for its venues?

Look at the last time Boston was tricked into hosting a mega-event for the exact same rationales of big money and “world-class” fame: the 2004 Democratic National Convention. It turned downtown into a military-policed dead zone to, by the rosiest estimates, net no more revenue than any one of several normal events it displaced.

But most of all, check your gut sense of what’s right. Boston is a city where developers are regularly told, “It doesn’t matter how cool your plan is if you didn’t work with your neighbors.” JP activists and the City Council just tongue-lashed a company that was booting a few local businesses and jacking residential rents. Why would we even consider letting already rich tycoons boot people out of a crucial park for millionaires’ horses, or eminent-domain a successful blue-collar business complex for a disposable stadium?

“Transparency” is a meaningless and misleading word without power and control behind it. If Bostonians had any meaningful leverage over the Olympics, Boston 2024 would be coming to our meetings on our timetable, not the other way around.

JP and Boston are already exceptional, world-class places—because they’re savvy enough to see through tricks, and to come up with truly creative, collaborative ways to support such resources as Franklin Park.

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