Metro, Column, Boston

Can Boston Handle An Olympic Bid?

Nearly every middle-aged U.S. citizen can tell you exactly where he or she was when Boston University’s Mike Eruzione buried the game-winning goal to help the U.S. men’s hockey team upset the Soviet Union in the 1980 Olympic games. Those types of moments in sports are special—moments that create a sense of pride that are remembered forever. Now, the U.S. is looking to bring those moments home for the first time since 2002.

Olympics fever is here in Boston.

As the world prepares for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Boston is pushing to become the host of the 2024 summer games.

Boston 2024—the young organizing committee designed to bring the games to the Hub—makes the case that Boston’s existing infrastructure, collegiate atmosphere, sports-crazy community, exquisite parks, and a rich history make the city a prime candidate poised to host the competitive games.

Declaring that “it would be Boston leading the United States,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh, WCAS ’09, gathered with Olympians, Paralympians, and members of Boston 2024 Monday night near Fenway, expressing his support for Boston to host the 2024 Summer Olympics.

The last time the U.S. hosted the games was in 2002 in Salt Lake City, and before that, 1996 in Atlanta. Bringing the Olympics back home is daunting task that requires undertaking seven years of preparation and billions of dollars of funding—building an athletic venue for opening and closing ceremonies and constructing an Olympic village to house 16,000 athletes, as well as perfecting a reliable transportation system.

London’s use of landmarks such as Hyde Park, Wimbledon, and Lord’s Cricket Ground that were used in 2012 would be utilized in Boston—which could use the Common for volleyball, Franklin park for equestrian events, and even Harvard Stadium for field hockey. Many of Boston’s offerings, including a cluster of colleges such as Harvard, MIT, Boston University, and Boston College, would be near the Charles River and would surround the MBTA system.

But is this idea feasible for Boston?

While Boston has an undeniable historic charm, its intimacy poses numerous challenges to moving people around a congested city. Boston can barely handle rush-hour traffic, and some transit improvements like easing jammed roadways and extending the MBTA system could prove to be costly. Other opponents believe the total cost of hosting the games is too high—in Sochi, Russia the total costs amounted to $51 billion. Or, others believe that Boston would be better suited to host the Winter Olympics.

Proponents are working to convince city residents that creating sports venues would not ruin their neighborhoods or lengthen commuting times after the games are over. A $1.5 million 3-D version of greater Boston was recently created by Boston 2024 to forecast the potential impact of the games to planners and engineers in the region—years before anything is built.

The selection of a host city is an arduous process that takes place about seven years before the Olympic games. Currently, Boston is up against four other cities on the United States Olympic Committee’s (USOC) short list of potential host cities. The others include Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. For Boston to get the 2024 games, a few things must happen first: The USOC must decide if it will submit a bid for the United States, and it must choose Boston as that city. In December, the International Olympics Committee will present a plan for the future of the Olympics, and the USOC will make a bid following that meeting.

With the city’s quadricentennial coming up in 2030, the possibility of hosting an Olympics in 2024 or 2028 will prove to be a central topic in Boston’s debate surrounding its evolution. By 2024, many BC students will have left Boston behind, but the effects of hosting the Olympics will be prevalent for decades to come.

Featured Image Courtesy of MorgueFile

October 8, 2014