From the opening words of Mayor Marty Walsh’s hastily called news conference Monday morning, it was apparent that the wicked Boston 2024 bid was dead. He started by talking about how, back in January, when the U.S. Olympic Committee picked Boston, there was a big celebration. This is how you tell a story when the story is over — going back to when it all started. This news conference became a sweet trip down memory lane, with thanks to everyone who had taken part, before abruptly making a segue into political comedy and absolute farce. After avowedly being a supporter of the bid for months, here was the mayor now in a race to beat the USOC to the punch in announcing the candidacy was over — saying he would not sign the host-city contract. This even though he had repeatedly committed in months prior to doing just that.
Thanks for being such a great “partner,” mayor!
Some three or so hours later, the USOC issued a statement saying it and Boston 2024 had come to a “joint decision” to withdraw the candidacy.
All in, the timing offered a measure of big-picture irony: it was three years ago, to the day, that the London 2012 Games opened. And here were the USOC and Boston 2024 saying, see ya.
The three-page statement makes no mention of a USOC board vote. You can believe that if there had been one, it would have been so noted. So why no vote? Because the mayor made this super-easy Monday for all involved.
Out. Done. In New England, everyone, it's back to the intrigue surrounding Tom Brady and Deflategate. Or the godawful Red Sox, in last place in the American League East.
The action Monday marks the very first time a U.S. bid has been so pulled — though Colorado voters essentially gave the 1976 Winter Games back to the IOC, which then staged them in Innsbruck, Austria.
This move also marks a third straight fail for the USOC, after bids from Chicago for 2016 and New York for 2012.
This last point is likely to be made repeatedly in the time ahead.
Even so, there is at least now the opportunity for a fresh start, presumably in Los Angeles.
LA Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a statement that said, "At this time, my office has not had conversations with the United States Olympic Committee. I continue to believe that Los Angeles is the ideal Olympic city and we have always supported the USOC in their effort to return the Games to the United States. I would be happy to engage in discussions with the USOC about how to present the strongest and most fiscally responsible bid on behalf of our city and nation."
The International Olympic Committee has made it abundantly clear to the USOC that it wants an American bid.
Understand that because of the Boston disaster a U.S. bid for 2024 now faces considerable odds.
Too, the FIFA indictments brought by the U.S. Justice Department hang over any American effort. As well, the developing field in Europe — Paris, Hamburg, Rome, Budapest — is compelling and the Games have never been away from Europe for more than 12 years; London 2012 plus Rio 2016 plus Tokyo 2020 equals? Also, Toronto is now mulling a 2024 bid and it’s in the eastern time zone, gravy for U.S. and Canadian broadcasters.
But, again, the IOC, and in particular key influencers within the movement, are keen on a United States effort for 2024.
Now the issue is whether the USOC board will pick up the signals that have been delivered in every which way to its senior leadership — and go with LA.
Time is keenly of the essence, with an IOC all-members meeting this week in Kuala Lumpur and a Sept. 15 deadline for the formal submission of any 2024 candidacy.
Scott Blackmun, the USOC’s chief executive, said in that statement, “When we made the decision to bid for the 2024 Olympic Games, one of the guiding principles that we adopted was that we would only submit a bid that we believed could win.”
He also said, “The USOC would very much like to see an American city host” in 2024, adding, “We will immediately begin to explore whether we can do so on a basis consistent with our guiding principles, to which we remain firmly committed.”
And: “We understand the reality of the timeline that is before us. We will brief the media on our progress towards a decision later in August …”
With that in mind, there is only one option: LA.
It’s so super-obvious.
As three-time Olympic gold medalist Rowdy Gaines said on Twitter, “RIP Boston … time to come to the rescue Los Angeles #2024”
Los Angeles staged the Games in 1932 and 1984. The stadium is in place and ready for some $600 million in improvements, to be paid for not by taxpayers but by the University of Southern California.
Since 1984, moreover, new venues such as Staples Center have been built that make a 2024 version — with the IOC emphasis on sustainability — all the more attractive. And a new NFL stadium appears increasingly probable.
Some $40 billion in transit improvements, with a focus on light rail, are already underway in and around LA.
Political support for the Olympics, from Garcetti to the city council to the board of supervisors to state legislators to the governor, is rock solid.
Poll numbers are in the high 70s.
Ongoing right now in LA? The Special Olympics World Games. To enthusiastic support from the public and the city, which has committed $12 to $15 million in in-kind services. And from the likes of swimmer Michael Phelps, skater Michelle Kwan and diver Greg Louganis, among others.
And there is more, much more, in the city where an Olympics is just part of the fabric of life. Where 10th Street is Olympic Boulevard, because the X Olympiad was in 1932.
Doubtlessly, there will be questions and calls for review of the USOC process that led it to select Boston over LA in the first instance.
Poll numbers in Boston were always dismal — now in the 30s and 40s, with opposition at 50. The USOC cited lack of public support in making Monday’s move, saying it did “not think that the level of support enjoyed by Boston’s bid would allow it to prevail over great bids from Paris, Rome, Hamburg, Budapest or Toronto.”
Note, incidentally, no mention of Baku, Azerbaijan, also considering a 2024 bid after the first European Games there earlier this summer.
Walsh sought Monday to downplay local push-back to the Games: “The opposition for the most part is about 10 people on Twitter and a couple people out there who are constantly beating the drumbeat. This is about the taxpayers and what I have to do as mayor.”
The Boston bid was presented originally as a walkable, city-centered Games, with an emphasis on the many local universities. Then it morphed into a statewide thing, in an effort to win support for a referendum in November 2016 — a referendum that originally was not envisioned in any way.
As things unraveled, it became clear that Boston 2024 had been — from the start — an exercise in futility.
Bid 2.0 proposed a temporary stadium. For $1.376 billion (at least)? Just to tear it down?
Last Friday, it emerged that the original bid, in December, was short $471 million in proposed organizing committee revenues — but neither that gap nor the fact that additional revenues would be needed were mentioned in a January submission.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker was always lukewarm, at best, to the bid. He said in recent days he was waiting on a consultants’ report, due in August, to analyze whether Boston 2024 was financially viable — when he and the USOC knew the USOC needed his out-front support.
And then, ultimately, there was the mayor. Walsh, in Monday’s news conference:
“I cannot commit to putting the taxpayers at risk. If committing to sign a guarantee today is what’s required to move forward, then Boston is no longer pursuing the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
Last October, the mayor sent Blackmun a letter saying, in part: “… in my capacity as the 54th Mayor of this great city I hereby confirm the ability of the City of Boston to sign the Host City Contract with the USOC, respect the Olympic Charter and re-affirm our previously stated support.”
The December bid submission to the USOC declared the city of Boston “will agree to the terms, without reservation,” of the host city contract. It also said it would agree to sign the contract “unedited,” adding the bid and the city “recognize the necessity in agreeing to sign the 2024 Host City Contract in the form to be provided by the IOC.”
In January, and again in February after a brouhaha about a non-disparagement clause, Walsh signed a joinder agreement on behalf of the city with the USOC. In that document, the city agreed — meaning it would be legally bound — to sign the host city contract.
See, in particular, Section 2.01: “The City shall execute and deliver the Host City Contract, the Joint Marketing Program Agreement and any other Candidature Documentation as the IOC shall require.” In legalese, just as in plain English, “shall” offers no wiggle room.
And yet, here, too, was Walsh on Monday before the cameras:
“I refuse to mortgage the future of the city away. This is a commitment that I can’t make without ensuring the city and its residents will be protected.”
The only real wonder Monday is why it took so long to wave bye-bye to all this.
But at long last, it’s done.
And, finally, it’s time to look ahead.