JP played key role in killing Olympics bid

Special To The Gazette

Jamaica Plain activists and park advocates were among the key players in the movement that killed Boston 2024’s Olympics bid.

The stage was set a year ago, when rumors first swirled about Franklin Park possibly being included as a venue in the secretly, privately crafted bid. JPers began asking questions Boston 2024 and the City would not answer and demanding transparency they refused to provide.

JP became the cradle of the No Boston 2024 movement, which joined the No Boston Olympics group in delivering the bid a lethal one-two punch of criticism on social impacts and financial unaccountability. The Franklin Park Coalition hosted a meeting that was a devastating PR disaster for Boston 2024, revealing its lack of information and the secret hiring of former Gov. Deval Patrick as a high-priced “ambassador.”

The following is a look back at big moments and key stories in the rising tide of JP-based opposition to Boston 2024.

March 2014

JP City Councilor Matt O’Malley sounds some of the first local excitement—and warnings—about the Olympics bid, which was still largely under the radar. He tells the Gazette, “I was watching the Summer Olympics in London in 2012, and I thought, ‘Why not Boston?’” But he also warns of “pitfalls” for cities in prior Games and calls for a City feasibility study. Pro-Olympics Council President Bill Linehan later dragged Boston 2024 review meetings along with no action. A threat from Councilor Tito Jackson to subpoena the full bid document became a final nail in Boston 2024’s coffin 16 months later.

July 2014

The Boston 2024 bid is shortlisted by the U.S. Olympic Committee and rumored to include Franklin Park as a venue—without any local input or permission. “It could be fabulous or it could really destroy our park as we know it today,” says Christine Poff, executive director of the Franklin Park Coalition, calling for more info. The FPC would never get full answers and was never able to take a pro or con position.

Nov. 21, 2014

-Parts of the Boston 2024 plan are revealed to selected journalists, not including the Gazette, and confirmed to include Franklin Park as an equestrian and pentathlon venue. “We’ve just read about it in the Globe,” says Poff of local input.

-The Gazette editorializes for opposition to Boston 2024, warning that Olympic bids always involve this type of secretive land-grabs and end-runs of community process. Local activists immediately respond by announcing the first meeting of a protest movement that will later call itself No Boston 2024.

Nov. 24, 2014

No Boston 2024 activists hold that debut meeting at JP’s First Baptist Church. It is the first community meeting of any kind to be held about the bid before its submission to the USOC. “The community response was exactly how one would expect it to be: outrage at all these decisions being made behind closed doors, and that it’s happening without our consent,” one of the organizers, Robin Jacks, tells the Gazette. Also attending are representatives from No Boston Olympics, who also criticized the lack of input, and from Boston 2024, who promised public input later.

No Boston 2024 went on to become a major force against the bid on social media, in public meetings, and in citizen journalism, where its activists were the first to reveal secret parts of the bid and emails showing City Hall’s behind-the-scenes boosterism.

Dec. 5, 2014

The Gazette is first to report that similar Olympics horse events shuttered parts of London’s Greenwich Park for over a year, a possibility that becomes a key point of concern about Franklin Park’s future.

Dec. 19, 2014

-Boston 2024 President Dan O’Connell, in an interview at the bid group’s office, tells the Gazette that the Olympics would improve Franklin Park and promised that residents would get to decide whether it would be a venue. But he also refuses to hold public meetings unless the bid wins, calling input “a waste of people’s time” until then.

-The Mayor’s Office declines to tell the Gazette whether Mayor Martin Walsh had read the bid, forwarding that question to Boston 2024 itself, when asked about JP impacts. Walsh later tells other media he never read the bid before signing it.

March 5, 2015

Months after Boston is chosen as the U.S.’s official Olympic bid, Boston 2024 finally holds a local public meeting hosted by the FPC. The meeting is a disaster, frustrating park advocates with a lack of details. Questioned by a Gazette reporter about long-term funding for park improvements, Boston 2024 CEO Rich Davey refuses to answer in public, later admitting one-on-one that “that’s an ‘if.’” Former Gov. Patrick appears unannounced in the crowd, and media later discover he was secretly hired by Boston 2024. The FPC and Boston 2024 would go on to have some private communications, but never with enough information to satisfy the park group.

March 30, 2015

In a major Boston Globe article, Boston 2024 apologizes for that meeting’s disaster and pledges more transparent process. In reality, there would never be another public meeting about the park plan. Meanwhile, Globe columnist Joan Venocchi reports that Boston 2024 chairman John Fish said “you need to have your head examined” if you doubt Olympic benefits to the park.

May 2, 2015

Carlos Arredondo, the famed Boston Marathon bombing rescue hero and peace activist, shows up as a No Boston 2024 supporter at its table at JP’s Wake Up the Earth Festival.

May-June, 2015

No Boston 2024, along with many other activist groups, holds two forums at JP’s Hope Church about historic negative impacts of Olympics, including low-income housing displacement and militarized policing. Among the guests are Dave Zirin, sports editor at The Nation and author of “Brazil’s Dance with the Devil: The World Cup, The Olympics and the Struggle for Democracy.”

June 11, 2015

Another local opposition group, Franklin Park Area Stop Boston Olympics, holds its first meeting in JP.

June 19, 2015

The Stonybrook Neighborhood Association, representing part of JP’s Franklin Park border area, issues an unscientific survey of 100 residents that shows opposition to the Olympics and distrust of Boston 2024’s promises.

June 30, 2015

Boston 2024 and the City hold a long-planned public meeting about the bid at JP’s English High School. It’s another PR disaster, as they fail to provide any more solid details of local impacts, and are met with vocal protesters carrying signs with such slogans as “Don’t play games with JP!”

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