If facts mattered as much as the Boston Globe‘s subscription drives would like you to believe, perhaps the paper wouldn’t be pushing the warmed over talking points of a doomed Olympic bid two years after it buckled under the weight of its own dishonesty.
The Globe‘s editorial board—these days comprised solely of Shirley Leung, it seems—saw the International Olympic Committee’s decision to host the 2024 and 2028 Games in Paris and Los Angeles, respectively, as reason to once again chastise the people of Boston for passing on the torch. That Olympic organizers broke with tradition and named two hosts at once “suggests a positive turn for the IOC, a signal that it wants to win back the favor of Western democracies.” In reality, it means that people all over have grown wise to their con, thanks in large part to what happened in Boston, in spite of the Globe‘s best efforts.
Since then, the IOC watched as its field of potential 2024 host cities dwindle. A referendum kiboshed Hamburg’s bid, and the mere threat of a referendum ended Budapest’s. Citing the crippling debt that comes with hosting the Games, Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi refused to support her city’s bid, effectively killing it. In Boston, the world found not only a blueprint for rejecting the Olympic shell game, but a searing rebuke of the plutocrats who seek to profit off it—the same folks Leung canonizes.
The Globe brass considers this exercise in democracy an embarrassment, one borne of misplaced priorities. How on Earth will Boston be known for as an “educational and research powerhouse,” the Globe laments, if those who too often hold the short end of the Olympic baton won’t behave? Don’t they know that all their transit and development woes could be solved, if only their autonomy were signed over to a handful of wealthy autocrats on the other side of the world, with a proven record of caring little about leaving host cities better than it found them?
Let’s make one thing abundantly clear. Boston 2024 was about real estate. That’s it. It was never about infrastructure. It was never about fixing the T or building affordable housing. It was a land grab. Boston 2024 was a hastily assembled ploy by the region’s wealthiest to carve up what little didn’t already belong to them, using the public sector as a means to achieve it. (This is why Mayor Marty Walsh’s latest revisionist narrative, that the bid never cost the city anything, is especially odious, given how the Boston Redevelopment Authority acted as Boston 2024’s unofficial planning arm.) To be sure, the bid attracted more than a few of people who I’m sure had good intentions and earnestly wanted to confront the very real civic challenges besetting the city. But the goal of Boston 2024 was always the radical redistribution of resources to a powerful few.
What’s particularly disturbing is the way the Globe glosses over the bid’s contentious relationship with the truth and anyone who sought it out. Public opinion, already languishing in the wake of the T’s collapse during the snowiest winter in Boston history, never recovered after journalists revealed that Boston 2024 was telling the United States Olympic Committee one thing in its highly confidential bid book, and the taxpayers, something different. These weren’t “early PR mistakes” as the Globe would have you believe, but the deliberate obfuscation of key facts about a multibillion-dollar megaproject—like who would pay for it, and how. This leached into City Hall, where a thin-skinned Press Office took over the handling of public records requests—a move that one open records advocate called “unusual and concerning, on a number of levels.” And have you ever wondered why Walsh’s $115,000-a-year Olympic watchdog never raised a single red flag about any of the bid’s myriad flaws listed in the postmortem Brattle Report during her time on the job, only to be later named planning director of the powerful Boston Planning and Development Agency?
So it’s puzzling to the see the Globe parroting lines from Boston 2024’s promotional materials about the “transformative power of sport” (see: Rio, Athens) and a “walkable Olympics”—a schtick Boston 2024 quietly abandoned in the second version of the bid, lest spectators hoof it from Boston to Billerica. “For Boston, the Games also offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance to galvanize investments in housing and transportation,” the Globe gushes, willfully ignorant of the Brattle Report’s finding that the bid’s miscalculations of improvements needed for the MBTA alone “could have increased the costs by approximately $1.1 to $1.3 billion, if they were able to be completed at all prior to 2023.”
Here’s a little secret: Nothing is stopping the same titans of industry who backed this fraudulent bid from pitching in now and helping make Boston a better place to live and work. They just don’t care to. “The ethos of Boston 2024 will endure well beyond the bid process and the Games,” read the notes from a 2014 meeting of the bid’s Movement Committee. “We will commit to 1-2 signature programs even if Boston does not win the bid.”
Would you believe these programs never materialized? As Leung’s beloved saints of the C-suite remain conspicuously mum on how to shore up the T’s budget woes or ensure that families can still find housing in Boston that won’t bankrupt them, it becomes all too clear that the so-called “ethos of Boston 2024” was garden-variety greed. And you better believe it’ll endure.