By Rebeca Oliveira and John Ruch/Gazette Staff
A possible Olympic future for Franklin Park and Jamaica Plain is a step closer to reality, as Boston was tapped last week to submit the official U.S. bid for the 2024 Summer Games.
That move is drawing cheers, jeers and confusion from local leaders. And with the bid still secret, the intended impacts on JP remain unclear.
Franklin Park is among the potential venues for a Boston Olympics, putting Jamaica Plain among the neighborhoods that could directly host the Games. The park could be used for horse and golf competitions, which has raised possibilities of park improvements, but also park closures. The park’s White Stadium is a possible pentathlon venue.
Christine Poff, executive director of the Franklin Park Coalition, told the Gazette that Boston 2024, the private group creating the Olympic bid, still has not contacted the FPC.
“We have no official position at this point, but may at a later date. Our board will take it up and decide whether to take a stand and what it should be,” Poff said. “But if Franklin Park is used as an Olympic venue and large areas of the park are damaged or made inaccessible for a long period of time, it will be hard for us to support that. But we really need to know more.”
City Councilor Matt O’Malley, who has supported the possibility of hosting the Games, told the Gazette last week, “We’re at a point now where we have a strong opportunity to make sure this is done well and efficiently, not using public funds.”
“I think this could potentially be a great thing for the city. But if it turns out it’s not, we shouldn’t do it,” he said. “But we should have the conversation, with a clear and open process. Boston 2024 needs to do a better job. They really need to engage the community and work with folks.”
Meanwhile, the JP-based protesters who held the only public meeting of any kind about the Olympics prior to the bid submission are vowing to keep up the fight.
“We remain committed to holding Boston accountable to democratic principles such as transparency, consent of the people and care for the most vulnerable among us. That said, we feel more committed than ever to fighting to make sure these principles are upheld,” local protest organizer Robin Jacks said. “This is Boston, the cradle of American democracy. We absolutely believe that if any city can rise up and stop an undemocratic Olympics from being forced upon us, it is Boston.”
The local protesters are working “in solidarity” with the regional opposition organization No Boston Olympics, Jacks said.
The U.S. Olympic Committee, a private nonprofit organization, selected Boston’s bid over those of Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. The bid will only become official once it is submitted, after review, to the Switzerland-based International Olympic Committee (OIC) in September.
The City and Boston 2024 will hold several public meetings, but it is unclear how those will affect the bid or whether there will be any other public processes.
The Gazette reached out to City Hall and Boston 2024 for information on plans, process, how strongly public input will be considered and whether the bid documents would be made public. Neither request was answered by press time.
Boston 2024 President Dan O’Connell previously told the Gazette that public meetings will be held if Boston’s bid was chosen, and that JP would have a say in local venue placement. The first meeting of their citizens advisory group, which apparently consists of anyone who signed up, is scheduled for Jan. 21 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.
The City of Boston has scheduled nine public meetings to discuss the potential impacts of hosting the Olympics. The first of those meetings is scheduled for Jan. 27 downtown and JP is scheduled to host one on June 30.
The last of those meetings is scheduled for Sept. 29, after the deadline for the USOC to submit its entry to the IOC in mid-September. The U.S. bid would then compete with international cities for the IOC’s final host city selection, slated for 2017.