When Boston 2024 committed Franklin Park as an Olympic venue in its bid without telling anyone locally, that move was uninformative, arrogant and disingenuous.
No surprise that its first, incredibly belated public meeting at the park was all of the above and worse.
Boston 2024 is interested in Franklin Park because, from its godlike perch, the park is merely a blank spot on the map that it can use for free to stage part of its gigantic TV sports show on behalf of foreign elites and multinational corporate sponsors. That involves kicking some of the city’s neediest kids and some of JP’s most crucial cultural programs out of the park for months, to be replaced by “horse ballet” and other elitist sports.
Naturally, Boston 2024 cannot say these truths, because many people would automatically consider them greedy and chaotic.
Thus, Boston 2024 holds airy, toothless public meetings that are by turns mystifying and deceptive. It encourages citizens to project their fantasies onto a “dream” rather than scrutinize bid details and Olympics history. It poses as an urban master plan implicitly linked to the City’s actual 2030 planning. It promises that anything can change, but never tells you how to change it. Most of all, Boston 2024 continues to lull the public into thinking it’s early when in fact it’s later every second as money, power and leverage build in its crony-capitalist favor.
The Franklin Park meeting was no exception. Boston 2024 blew in with no explanation of why it shut out local input for so long, or what would happen to that night’s input, either. It mansplained a blundering history of the park, then proceeded to unveil the big idea for improving today’s parkland: sticking it with the swimming pool that would be left over from the pentathlon.
When a Gazette reporter asked a key question about long-term maintenance funding, Boston 2024 President Richard Davey refused to give the unflattering answer in public. When Boston 2024 claimed its plot would only shutter part of the park for a month, the Gazette had to correct on the spot that at the last Games, the closure lasted a year.
And on it went, with Boston 2024 either not mentioning or pretending not to know well-known impacts of the Olympics, such as heavy-duty security, traffic nightmares and the coerced displacement of homeless people. (There is a shelter adjacent to Franklin Park.)
The meeting would be disastrous if the public had any actual leverage over Boston 2024. But it does not. There is no actual review process. Boston 2024 just needs to keep the public confused and it can continue on its merry way.
All of this puts the park’s true heroes, the Franklin Park Coalition, in a terribly unfair spot. The FPC does the day-in, day-out grunt work of programming and co-maintaining the park, working miracles on a budget only about 10 percent higher than Davey’s Boston 2024 salary. Does the FPC oppose this park-jacking and risk angering the mayor and some of the region’s richest donors? Or does the FPC embrace (or submit to) the largely unexplained whims of Olympic tycoons in the hopes of wringing out some ill-defined fixes?
If they really wanted, the mega-rich forces behind the Olympics bid could help out Franklin Park tomorrow with normal donations and technical assistance without any Games-oriented fallout and risk.
Truly wise and beneficent civic leaders would ask a roomful of park advocates what they need. Boston 2024 merely told them—in as vague terms as possible—what they’ll get.
Eastern JP better get used to it. Because if you think Boston 2024 is pushy and bewildering, wait until you meet the International Olympic Committee.