Boston 2024

#USOCGoHome: seriously, how bad can this get?


Here is a group from the Rome 2024 campaign. They met Thursday at International Olympic Committee headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, with, among others, the IOC president, Thomas Bach. Afterward, it was all smiles.  

Just some of the Rome 2024 delegation with IOC president Thomas Bach //  Twitter

Now let’s search for a Boston 2024 group picture with Bach.

Oh, wait.

You mean there aren’t any? Not even one over the past six months?

Ladies and gentlemen, you know what they say: a picture is worth a thousand words.

To reiterate a point made often in this space, there is only one reason to play the Olympic bid game. It’s to win.

Boston 2024 is not a winner.

The Pan American Games are going on right now in Toronto. Guess who was there just a few days ago? Bach. It’s not far from Toronto to Boston, if you had the inclination to, say, talk up the advantages of Agenda 2020, the IOC’s would-be reform plan.

In bid offices overseas, they have to be gleeful at how bad this Boston 2024 effort is. Because what should be a time for an American bid to shine is, instead, day after day, week after week, a succession of headlines that figuratively scream, how bad can this get?

Indeed, if you’re Toronto, aren’t you thinking a good Pan Ams might just jumpstart your way into the 2024 race? The way it did for Rio de Janeiro in 2007 en route to IOC victory in 2009 for 2016?

The Canadian Olympic Committee even shrewdly put on a gala event in Montreal — where Bach won his gold medal in fencing in 1976. He was the special invited guest, and grew emotional in his reminiscing.

Just what the USOC needs — another contender in the eastern time zone.

In Paris this week, a huge crowd gathered on the Champ de Mars to celebrate Bastille Day and the launch of Paris 2024. The president of France was there. The mayor of Paris. Bid leaders. More than 100 athletes. The Eiffel Tower was lit up.

The Eiffel Tower lit for Paris 2024 and Bastille Day // Paris 2024

In Boston on Thursday, the two top USOC officials met with Mayor Marty Walsh — again, zero photo op — and afterward put out a well-intentioned news release.

But even that release made plain why Boston 2024 is a bad slog.

"We’re pleased to have the support of the Mayor and look forward to working with Steve Pagliuca and the entire team at Boston 2024 to make this bid a success,” USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun was quoted as saying.

Fascinating. Where was the governor, Charlie Baker?

Amazing that Blackmun, along with USOC board chair Larry Probst, could fly all the way to Boston, and take a meeting with the mayor, but the governor was available only by phone.

What the governor is doing right now is waiting for a report from consultants. They’re supposed to assess whether the Boston 2024 plan, dubbed Bid 2.0 in a release made public June 29, is financially feasible.

This is hardball realpolitik.

If this report comes back — next month, probably — and says Bid 2.0 would be a hard sell financially, the governor has the out he needs.

Without key political support, any Olympic bid is a dead-bang loser.

But that’s exactly where Boston 2024 is already.

Compare: in Lausanne Thursday, the Rome delegation was led by the mayor and included a senior representative from the prime minister’s office. That’s important generally but more so now for Rome because the former prime minister was the one who, in February 2012, pulled the plug on Rome’s 2020 effort.

Baker, as demonstrated again Thursday, has shown distance in his approach to Boston 2024.

When Bid 2.0 was released, meanwhile, Walsh — and it’s a bid city mayor who has to sign a host city contract — was nowhere near the scene.

Check Walsh’s Twitter account. There’s he’s a rah-rah cheerleader of sorts, posting regularly — in the last couple weeks, for instance, sending congrats to the U.S. women’s World Cup soccer champs, even wishing the Dalai Lama happy birthday. The last time he posted something about the bid? That appears to be a little over five weeks ago, when he declared, “I will not use public money to build Olympic venues.”

You wonder why Walsh would keep his remove, at least in public, from Boston 2024?

Let us count the ways:

— Post-Bid 2.0 poll numbers in favor of the project range from 37 percent to 42. Worse, 50 percent opposed. That 42 percent is the current WBUR poll; for anyone inclined to say it’s an improvement over last month’s 39 percent reading, that very slight increase falls within the margin of error.

— A stadium design that is estimated at $1.376 billion. For something due to be torn down. This at a time when cost estimates for the Tokyo 2020 stadium have spiraled north of $2 billion, up some $700 million from the original estimate. Who seriously believes that $1.376 billion would be the final number?

— Agenda 2020 is big on the use of existing and temporary venues. Nowhere does Agenda 2020 promote the idea of a temporary $1.376 billion facility. That runs counter not only to policy but common sense.

— Bid 2.0 features no plan yet for an aquatics center or velodrome and a media center priced out at a laughably low $51 million. How can taxpayers be expected to know whether there might be cost overruns when there are no costs to begin with?

— And, as longtime Olympic reporter John Powers points out in the Boston Globe, “What began as an intimate and walkable scheme — the non-LA alternative — now involves half a dozen counties and five of the state’s six largest cities.”

Too, the Globe reports, there’s suddenly going to be a public debate on Boston 2024. On the one side, there’ll be bid chairman Pagliuca and Dan Doctoroff, a former deputy New York mayor and New York 2012 bid leader who is now on the USOC board of directors. On the other, Chris Dempsey, a co-chair of the opposition group No Boston Olympics, and Smith College economist Andrew Zimbalist.

Pagliuca is a basketball guy. But this debate next Thursday is less two-on-two than the feel of something more evocative of football: it’s the Boston 2024 version of a political Hail Mary.

Like, just to be obvious, especially when there are locals who are affiliated with the USOC board of directors: why invite the New York guy to woo the gentle folk of Boston? Should he wear a Yankees cap for full effect?

In Boston, what was the top trending hashtag Thursday? “#USOCGoHome”

Also Thursday, as the Globe reported, a group opposed to public funding for an Olympics filed papers with the state attorney general, aiming to put a question on the November 2016 ballot that would largely prohibit the state from spending money to support the Games.

The USOC has a Sept. 15 deadline by which it must decide what to do.

Upcoming next is the IOC session in Kuala Lumpur, at the end of the month. There you can bet senior USOC officials will hear the same thing they heard in Toronto — you’re making this unbelievably hard and you need to do something to change it.

The answer is so blindingly obvious.

Again, the idea is to win, and to do so within the constraints of Agenda 2020. It’s not to engage in 20- or 30-year urban planning; that’s the lesson from Sochi 2014, and the $51 billion figure associated with those Olympics. Indeed, the unhappy fallout from that $51 billion clearly animates Agenda 2020’s call for restraint.

In Los Angeles, the stadium is a real thing.

Not only that, it was announced this week that USC, which now controls the LA Memorial Coliseum, reportedly has chosen Fox Sports to sell naming rights to the venue.

USC is committed to renovating the facility. Renovations figure to be in the $600 million range. Naming rights figure to bring in huge dollars; the Coliseum, site of the 1932 and 1984 Games, among other spectacles, has never had a naming rights partner.

At the same time, the NFL appears closer than ever to being back in LA. Hello, Coliseum rent.

USC is acting boldly.

The USOC could, too — and here’s how.

The newest initiative on the Olympic scene is what are called the "ANOC World Beach Games." They are now being pushed, and hard, by one of the most influential people in the Olympic scene, Kuwaiti Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah.

The sheikh is the president of the Assn. of National Olympic Committees and, as well, the Olympic Council of Asia.

The first edition of the Beach Games? Perhaps as soon as the summer of 2017.

The 2024 vote? August 2017.

What’s going to be the hot ticket at the Rio 2016 Olympics? Beach volleyball.

Worldwide, everyone knows the home of beach culture: Southern California.

Would it really be that difficult to stage a Beach Games — and win incredible goodwill — in, say, Venice, California?

Venice is hip, urban, has a famous stretch of beach and, not incidentally, is now the home of Snapchat, the way young people increasingly talk to each other. The Beach Games assuredly is aimed at the demographic the Olympic movement has had such difficulty reaching, teens and young 20s.


Also imagine: the IOC is said to be very supportive of this ANOC proposal. At the same time, IOC rules prohibit members from visiting bid cities. But, you know, what about seeking a waiver for those interested in seeing the Beach Games?

If that notion would work the IOC ethics people into a frenzy, there’s always San Diego. It got cut from the USOC 2024 list but is known since to have expressed interest in the Beach Games. San Diego is not Los Angeles; just ask anyone in San Diego. But say what? San Diego is only a two-hour drive away?

This, of course, underscores the fallacy of the no-visit rule. But that’s a topic for another day.

Right now, the days are counting down to Sept. 15. Kill the Boston bid. It's time for the USOC to move with boldness, creativity and resourcefulness. The United States deserves at least a winning chance at pictures with the president of the IOC that are all smiles.

Predictable, unfortunate: Boston 2024 for now


Predictably if unfortunately, the U.S. Olympic Committee on Tuesday decided to stay the course — at least for now — with the “partners” who threaten to drag it down, Boston 2024, officials saying they want time to judge if Boston’s Bid 2.0, a nakedly jacked-up economic development project, can turn matters around.

An Olympics is supposed to be about the athletes. A celebration of sport and ideals: friendship, excellence and respect. You wouldn’t have known that from the news conference immediately following the USOC’s board of directors meeting, in which USOC and Boston 2024 leaders focused almost exclusively on urban development, Boston 2024 chairman Steve Pagliuca saying of Bid 2.0, “What has transpired since [its] release yesterday is the discussion now is this is an amazing economic development program that allows the state and city to accomplish a lot of goals, including jobs.

“This program includes 100,000 job years,” he said, adding, “That’s the gross number of jobs created by the Olympics itself, and by the infrastructure that’s needed for the Olympics. It brings in billions of dollars to the region. Housing. And all sorts of other educational and other opportunities for youth. I think we have to have a new discussion on that opportunity and that we represent the United States in one of the most important sporting events in the world.”

A moment later, again: “This is a rare opportunity. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I haven’t seen an economic development opportunity this large in the last 35 years in Boston. It’s the opportunity of a generation.”

At Tuesday's USOC news conference // via Twitter

Gosh, if only Bud Greenspan were still alive to have filmed such a moving and touching soliloquy to the Olympic Games and all they stand for.

If the USOC had the guts to do what it should do, what it knows it needs to do, it would drop this nonsense and get on with a bid from Los Angeles.

It would run LA for 2024 and, if need be, 2028.

The low polling numbers in Boston, with approval ratings at 39 percent — or if you want to be charitable, in the 40s — are evidence of how poorly this thing has been received.

But no.

After the board meeting in Redwood City, California, both Larry Probst, the USOC board chair, and Scott Blackmun, the USOC’s chief executive, took pains Tuesday to stress that the intent is to give Bid 2.0 time, to see whether the poll numbers can creep up to acceptable levels.

The IOC wants 70 percent.

Like any guest who comes to someone’s house, the IOC wants to feel welcomed. At 70 percent, it feels the love.

As Blackmun said, “At the end of the day, it’s about the fact that we have a new plan. That plan has not had a chance to be rolled out in Boston yet. We are very intrigued by it. We are very excited by it. It is, as I said earlier, a plan that is really consistent with the vision that formed the basis of the USOC’s decision in January,” when it picked Boston over LA, San Francisco and Washington.

How that can possibly be the case — consistent with “the vision” earlier in the year — is, at best, problematic.

The January plan was based on “walkability,” the idea of Boston as an “Olympic Park” and the intense involvement of area universities to engage young people.

Now, for instance, Harvard is in only for archery.

Venues are being spread all over Massachusetts, in a clear play to try to win votes for a November 2016 statewide referendum — a measure that Probst acknowledged the “IOC has expressed some concern about,” which is code for a tremendous amount of concern.

Boston as Olympic Park? Try beach volleyball, which originally had been set for Boston Commons, now in Quincy.

Because venues all over the state, so much for walkability. As even Boston 2024 vice-chair Roger Crandall noted Tuesday, the original concept was “originally envisioned as a completely Boston-centric plan.”

And as of Monday the Bid 2.0 focus is on a Boston Games as urban catalyst — when Sochi 2014 cost $51 billion, Beijing 2008 at least $40 billion, London 2012 some $14 billion, Rio 2016 now pegged at $16 billion.

This is why the Olympics are now such a tough sell in western democracies. Yet this is precisely the sales job the USOC and Boston 2024 want to try to foist upon taxpayers?

Pagliuca took some time Tuesday to try to explain levels of insurance as backup. Good luck explaining that around town. For most people, listening to that is like listening to the teacher’s voice in the old Charlie Brown cartoons: wah wah wah wah. Something about insurance, right? And didn’t he say that the Olympic Village is going to cost $2.8 billion? That’s a lot of money!

Pagliuca, obviously new to the Olympic bid scene, also committed the two cardinal sins for any American — lasering in on the financial upside of a Games and proclaiming that “we” will win.

The IOC traditionally has displayed an intense disfavor for Americans who focus on money. Moreover, the IOC wants Americans to show humility in every regard.

Pagliuca: “Any great project, anything that can be so transformational, create a whole new neighborhood, parkland, connections, leave Boston in a much better place in 2030, 2040, that dovetails with the mayor’s plan in terms of urban renewal and growth, I think people will decide that small risk is well worth taking to get those incredible benefits, and bring in the billions of dollars for the Olympics, and the thousands of spectators from all over the world to showcase Boston as a world-class city.

“So we are very confident that the voters and anybody who looks at this will say this is a very sound, prudent plan that minimizes the risk and maximizes the opportunity, and fits in well, and perfectly, with Agenda 2020,” IOC president Thomas Bach’s would-be reform plan, “and I think will be the winning bid on the world stage.”

So backward.

A winning bid focuses not on what an Olympics can do for a city. It’s what a city can do for the Olympic movement.

Yet here was Pagliuca talking about new neighborhoods, jobs and economic development, and the USOC leadership resolutely sticking up for this noise in hopes of seeing poll numbers tick up?

When there’s an alternative where the poll numbers are already way, way up? Like, in the high 70s?

Where the focus is putting on a great Games in service to the Olympic movement? Just like in 1932 and 1984?

There is so much good that can be said, and sold, about an Olympics, particularly in the United States.

Yet now we are already reduced to the pros and cons of a public-policy exercise?

That’s not what an Olympic bid should be about.

It should be about inspiration.

Not contracting.

Which, by the way, this Boston bid gets totally wrong, too. If you get a bid on work in your house, do you really, truly expect the contractor to deliver the job for the amount it was bid for? How often in real life does that happen? Isn’t it more like x plus 30 percent? If you’re lucky?

In the Olympic world, 30 percent would be a godsend.

Those London Games — again, finally, $14 billion — were originally pitched as a $4 billion exercise.

When the Games were awarded to London in 2005, it was said Olympic Stadium would cost $440 million. Now, after transforming it to a 56,000-seat soccer stadium, with track and field facilities: $1.1 billion. West Ham, the Premier League soccer team, is contributing all of $24 million. Thanks, West Ham!

In Tokyo, site of the 2020 Games, according to reports out just this week, the National Stadium is now due to cost $2 billion. Original estimate: $1.3 billion.

This, by the way, after Tokyo 2020 officials have cut $1.7 billion overall via Agenda 2020.

Who in their right mind really thinks Olympic budget projections end up being the real deal?

Boston 2024 is proposing a temporary stadium that would cost — they say — $1.376 billion. It would be torn down after the Games.

Blackmun: “The thing we want to avoid more than anything else is building expensive permanent stadiums that [are] un-used after the Games, so whether it’s a temporary stadium that’s relocated or a permanent stadium that’s used by somebody else, the thing we want to avoid are permanent stadiums that aren’t used. So if this is a cost-effective approach that minimizes the budget expenditure of the stadium, we are completely in favor of it.”

As opposed to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which is already there, which is twice a proven Olympic success, which is going to be refurbished — without cost to taxpayers for up to $600 million — by the University of Southern California and which is guaranteed, no matter what, to be used?

In that comparison, and an Olympic Stadium is the centerpiece of any bid, it’s very difficult to see the logic that favors Boston.

The looming problem, as all associated with this process know, is the fixed Sept. 15 deadline by which to submit an American candidacy.

In July, the USOC intends to see where the poll numbers stand.

Another problem: Boston 2024 and the USOC are playing an old-fashioned game, trying to win support through the Boston Globe and other traditional, mainstream avenues.

What, at 3:10 p.m. eastern, was the No. 1 trending topic in Boston on Twitter?


At 7:10 p.m. eastern, as the news conference was wrapping up in California, the No. 1 trending line in Boston?


A sampling:

You want inspiration? You're going to get hardball, bare-knuckle politics. What an Olympic dream!

Speaking of political intrigue: when it comes to the 2024 bid, Mayor Marty Walsh is increasingly looking like Waldo.

The USOC took pains to highlight a constructive working relationship with Walsh, who flew to California to meet with its board Monday night, stressing that he is purportedly a solid backer of the bid.


Was the mayor at the Tuesday news conference? No.

Was the mayor in Boston Monday at the Bid 2.0 unveiling Monday?

Isn’t this supposed to be now about winning public support, not schmoozing with the USOC board behind closed doors? Which plays right to the hands of the many vocal activists who complain that this entire thing is a real-estate play that has little to do with sports or the Olympics and a lot to do with people of power and means talking to each other in confidence?

Which after Tuesday -- the rebuttal is, what?

Weird but so predictable. Just like the decision Tuesday to go forward with Boston.

Bid 2.0 is DOA: the Barcelona model is done


It’s natural for proponents of an Olympic campaign to be all cheery and optimistic, and such was the case Monday when Boston 2024 unveiled its so-called Bid 2.0, new bid leader Steve Pagliuca declaring, “We’ve now done the ‘little-picture' thinking. We think we’ve made the major leaps.”

On the eve of Tuesday’s key U.S. Olympic Committee meeting, however, this reality check: Bid 2.0 is rife with revenue and expense issues that call into question not just its fundamental premises but also, bluntly, the integrity of the process. Moreover, the Boston bid — as the pronounced absence of the mayor at Monday’s event emphatically underscores — faces political problems galore.

No one likes to admit to a mistake.

But when it meets Tuesday in Redwood City, California, the USOC board of directors would do itself — and the Olympic movement at home and worldwide — a huge favor by killing off this troubled Boston bid.

Boston 2024 bid leader Steve Pagliuca at Monday's news conference // screenshot WCVB

Boston 2024 hasn’t been good from the start. Bid 2.0 is not going to help matters.

The obvious answer is to move to Los Angeles, for 2024 and, if need be, 2028. The USOC knows this. It’s now a question of finding the courage to do the right thing.

Time, indeed, is of the essence.

There is within the IOC, which is based in Lausanne, Switzerland, something of a movement to see the Games return to the United States in 2024.

But not Boston.

Over recent weeks in Lausanne, and in Baku, Azerbaijan, where the first European Games just concluded, there has been talk. And that talk, as it relates to Boston — by at least a third of the members of the IOC, if not more — has been uniformly negative.

It's easy to understand why. The poll numbers of 39 percent. The leadership shuffles. The changes from the original “walkability” plan. And more.

In the meantime, there is so much wrong with Bid 2.0, it’s truly difficult to know where to start.

Deep breath.

Here goes.

The overarching problem is this:

It is commonly said that the 1984 Los Angeles Games transformed the Olympics. That is true. Under the leadership of Peter Ueberroth, they ushered in the commercial era that now dominates the movement.

But it is also true that Barcelona 1992 may be just as, if not, more important: those Games showed mayors, governors, prime ministers and presidents that the Olympics could serve as a catalyst for an urban makeover on a grand scale.

Because an Olympics comes with a seven-year hard deadline — the time from the awarding of a Games until opening ceremony — it offers the opportunity to get done in seven years what would otherwise take, public policy-wise, 20 years, 30 or more.

Barcelona was a middling city on the Mediterranean before 1992. Now it is one of the world’s most desirable tourist destinations.

Since 1992, Olympic bid cities have used Barcelona as a model for hugely expansive urban makeovers.

That, in a nutshell, is what Boston 2024 Bid 2.0 is selling:  the creation of two new neighborhoods. One would be “Midtown,” an 83-acre neighborhood at Widett Circle, the site of what would be a 69,000-seat temporary Olympic stadium. The other revolves around development of 30 acres at Columbia Point, the proposed waterfront site of the athletes’ village.

The problem is elemental.

This urban-catalyst approach to the Olympics came to a screeching halt with the 2014 Sochi Olympics, and the $51 billion figure associated with those Games.

No one is suggesting that Boston would be a $51 billion noose.

But the idea of using the Games, Barcelona style, is over. Yet that is the fundamental driver of Bid 2.0.

You see the comparisons throughout Bid 2.0 to New York’s failed 2012 bid, and the Hudson Yards project. New York ran that bid in 2004 and 2005. That, in Olympic terms, is a long, long time ago.

Indeed, the entire premise of IOC president Thomas Bach’s Agenda 2020, his would-be reform manifesto, is to move away from these enormous urban makeover projects.

The IOC is still big on "legacy." In the jargon, that's what a Games can mean to a community during and after the 17-day run of an Olympics.

But after killer cost overruns in Sochi, Beijing (2008), London (which won for 2012) and, now, Rio (2016), the mega-city turnaround game is over.

Especially Sochi — this is the reason so many taxpayers in western democracies have turned against the Olympic movement. They fear the problematic nature of the costs associated with an Olympic Games.

As even the Boston 2024 people note in their glossy packaging, the Tokyo 2020 people have saved $1.7 billion via Agenda 2020.

So why go with a plan that proposes the construction of two new neighborhoods?

Does that, in our world as it is today and is likely to be in 2024, make sense?

Moving on to the details of Bid 2.0 itself.

The key document in everything that was made public Monday is called “planning process, benefits, risks, opportunities.”

First, revenues.

Some background. There were four U.S. bid city finalists: Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington.

All four bid cities last year received a set of numbers from the USOC. All four were told to use certain figures to assess projected revenues in developing their bids. The big-ticket items were, as ever, an IOC contribution, ticketing and domestic sponsorship — all in, about $3.8 billion.

That $3.8 billion, however, was in 2024 dollars.

Adjusted to 2016 dollars, that $3.8 billion is really more like $3 billion even.

On Monday, turning to page 20 of the document, Boston 2024 projected $4.27 billion in those three big-ticket items.

That’s up roughly $1.25 billion (given rounding errors).

Think about a bid that San Francisco, Washington or — in particular, Los Angeles — could have put together with an extra $1.25 billion.

These next questions deserve to be asked:

Is what Boston 2024 has done in this instance fair? Does this sort of financial maneuvering demonstrate integrity, particularly when the bid people are fully aware that only a very few people know, truly, how the system works?

Some more finances, just to show the import of what’s on the printed page.

Back to page 9, entitled “Increased Boston tax revenues: Opportunity for significant investment.”

Here it purports to show that the city of Boston would earn $362 million in tax revenues by the year 2080 at Widett Circle.

That $362 million sounds impressive, right?

If you put $5 million into the stock market today and got a 7 percent return for 65 years, until the year 2080, you’d have $400 million.

So even though that $362 million looks big, it’s really nothing compared to the investment the people of Boston would be making.

Which makes for an excellent segue to expenses.

Let’s go there.

Pages 31 and 32: no aquatics center, no velodrome, no press center.

The Boston 2024 people keep asking for time.

Just give us time to make our case, goes their refrain.

And yet after a lengthy domestic bid process, a presentation last December to the USOC, being picked in January by the USOC and nearly six months’ more work — these three major items still can’t be produced?

Come on.

Moreover, the press center is low-balled at $50 million. That’s laughably low, probably a third of what it would really cost.

Turning to the stadium, and here you have to cross-reference between pages 22 and 35.

If they wanted to make this easy, they would have, right? But no.

Page 22: the temporary Olympic stadium costs pegged at $176 million.

That’s $176 million from the organizing committee’s budget. That’s one column of money.

But wait, page 35: $1.2 billion in additional costs for the stadium site, including land acquisition and relocation, “infrastructure” and contingencies.

This, then, makes up an entirely separate column of cash, to be paid for by a “master developer,” to be named in the future.

So: $1.376 billion, which is starting to sound about right, since NFL stadiums these days are in the $1.8 billion range.

Now let’s ask the common-sense questions:

Boston 2024 is asking a developer to spend $1.2 billion before it, the would-be Olympic organizing committee, spends a nickel. Who wants to step up?

If it’s such a great opportunity, why hasn’t it already been done?

As this prospectus of sorts notes, “Risks include higher than predicted costs for the land, relocation and decking. Current land owners could refuse to negotiate reasonable value for property. Risks also include failure to deliver proposed rezoning or tax agreement.”

All that? Really?

Just for the sake of being obvious: Los Angeles already has an Olympic stadium. The Games were held in the Coliseum in 1932 and 1984. The University of Southern California, which now manages the Coliseum, has committed to renovate it, whether there’s a Games or not, to the tune of up to $600 million.


Option 1: LA will have a fully state-of-the-art facility available to the USOC without spending anything.

Option 2: Boston would spend $1.376 billion, at the least, for a stadium that is going to be torn down.

Which makes more sense?

For the sake of fairness: Los Angeles would obviously have to spend money on the Coliseum to get it particularly ready for an Olympics. The Boston bid is pegged at $176 million for stadium work; an LA committee was prepared to spend twice that.

Moving on to the athletes’ village, and turn, please, to page 37.

Here, Boston 2024 would have to find another master developer to spend another $1.9 billion. Risks include “higher costs associated with Athletes’ Village” and more.

At any rate: In Iraq we called this nation-building. Now we call it neighborhood-building.

How about security?

Please turn to page 50. The 2024 Olympic Games would be a massive security undertaking, almost surely what’s called a “National Special Security Event” like the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. Federal agencies take the lead in such events.

“Federal funding for security will be required,” the document asserts, and while there are dollar figures aplenty throughout the rest of its pages, there curiously is no mention here of what this might cost taxpayers throughout the United States for the Games.

Figure at least $1 billion.

Once more: is this honest? In keeping with (Agenda 2020-mandated) best-practices standards of transparency?

You wonder why key Massachusetts politicians have kept their distance?

U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch, the Democrat who represents the district that includes the site of the temporary stadium, said a few days ago, “I really think it’s a bad idea. I think we can come up with a better solution.”

More critically, where was Boston Mayor Marty Walsh on Monday?

He was in Colorado, at the "Aspen Ideas Festival."

Just brutal.

The mayor is per IOC protocol the bid's political point person.

This is the bid’s big revival? And the mayor is talking up ideas instead of Bid 2.0?

Doesn’t that tell you everything you need to know?

If the United States is to have a chance at 2024 — indeed, if the IOC is to have a chance at giving the U.S. a chance — there’s only one option.

Mistakes are never fun to admit. But better to do it, and get it over with, and move not just along but ahead.

Kill this thing now. And get going with Los Angeles. Time is of the essence.

Big decision but not difficult -- kill Boston 2024


The U.S. Olympic Committee has a big decision on its hands at the end of the month: whether to kill off the Boston 2024 bid.

Big, yes. But not difficult. It’s obvious, made more so by an informal survey of key International Olympic Committee members a few days ago in Lausanne, Switzerland, who could not have made it more plain: do the right thing, they said in straightforward, indeed blunt, language, and put this Boston 2024 bid out of its, and everyone’s, misery.

Time is of the essence.

“Move,” said one senior IOC member, often a confidante of IOC president Thomas Bach’s, speaking — like the other members quoted here — on condition of anonymity. This member added, referring to the Boston bid team, “They had their opportunity. They fucked it around.”

“Los Angeles is better than Boston,” said another senior member. “The USA has to change its image.”

Said another, making an imaginary trigger with index finger and thumb, “The sooner the better. It has to be now.”

The seven dozen or so members of the IOC in attendance at the 2022 Winter Games briefing last week in Lausanne // photo IOC

Get the picture?

Here is the deal, again as candidly as possible.

There is one reason, and one reason only, for the United States to enter the 2024 bid race: to win.

It’s a $75 million gamble, maybe more, in this kind of race. For that kind of money, which in the United States means private investment, that can yield only one satisfactory result:


That, after the October 2009 first-round exit that Chicago 2016 suffered, even with President Obama himself lobbying in person at the IOC session in Copenhagen for his hometown, is what the USOC took to heart.

That is why the USOC did not run for 2020.

All conversations now about how an Olympic bid process can be a great learning process, maybe even a swell stimulus, can be lovely exercises for urban-planning seminars.

But winning is way, way, way better.

Ask London. Or Paris. Which of the two has been on the upswing since that 2005 vote for 2012?

Or New York. Do you really think New York would have preferred to have lost, or won, that 2012 race?

The peril and promise of an American bid

Last week, the IOC’s policy-making executive board met in Lausanne. After a few days, they were joined by almost all the IOC members for briefings related to the  2022 Winter Games race.

The only thing predictable about an IOC election is its unpredictability. That said, there is clearly a feeling within the most influential IOC circles that the time could be right for the Americans.

This despite the FIFA indictments brought by the U.S. Department of Justice — which, truth be told, have caused U.S. interests and in particular the USOC real damage in sports politics, the measure of which remains to be calculated.

The challenges any American bid faces ought not to be understated. One member, reflecting on the imminent signing of a Texas law allowing the open carrying of handguns in public and of concealed handguns on state university campuses — the governor would sign it last weekend — said that measure alone ought to spell the end of the Boston bid. Or, for that matter, Los Angeles, if it came to that.

Who, the member asked, could reliably trust the safety of one’s university-age children in a country with such a law?

For Americans, who understand the differences, geographical and cultural, between Texas and the two coasts, such a rhetorical question might seem — unusual. This, though, is the way it is.

For all that, it is the case that Larry Probst, who is the USOC chairman, and Scott Blackmun, the USOC chief executive, have spent since January 2010 repairing relationships and building international goodwill, in particular among the IOC’s — to use a phrase — thought leaders.

Within the IOC, a good many people have taken notice.

What they can’t now understand is why Probst and Blackmun didn’t do in January, when the USOC seemingly made its 2024 choice, what is expected in Olympic circles — tell the USOC board that Los Angeles was the right choice, and get on with it.

Democracy can be a good thing. But not necessarily in a board setting — at least an Olympic-style board.

In this instance, as was related time and again in Lausanne, Probst and Blackmun should have done what Bach does in the IOC: just do it. The IOC works better when the president is in charge. Same, it was related, for the USOC.

Without a doubt, Probst and Blackmun know full well what will win in Lausanne — or at least have a chance. It’s LA — for 2024 and, if it doesn’t work out, 2028.

One of the fundamental mistakes the U.S. makes is not running the same city, if it loses, again. The IOC likes it when they see cities keep trying — Pyeongchang, South Korea, bid twice before winning a third time for 2018.

It’s time now, it was said in Lausanne, for Probst and Blackmun to tell the USOC board what’s what  — to right the mistake that was made in January and, again, get on with it.

The idea of not bidding for 2024 is, of course, one option. But it’s a very poor option. Reading the tea leaves in Lausanne, it’s clear that not bidding for 2024 will — like the Chicago 2016 defeat — set the Americans back three to five to as many as 10 years in IOC circles.

Will the USOC likely encounter a dash of unfavorable publicity if it kills off Boston?

For sure.

For about a week. And that will be that.

Will Los Angeles be relegated for the next two years to a status as “second choice”?

Maybe. But probably not.


You know what they know how to do in Los Angeles?

Tell stories. In film and in our increasingly digital world.

You know what wins Olympic bids?

Story-telling. And humility. Which the USOC, the embodiment of the American medal machine, could use a dose of — if it manages this turn-around the right way, which actually could and should be super-easy.

Just come right out and say, we made a mistake.

For the sake of clarity:

San Francisco and Washington, the other two 2024 finalists, offered some upsides. But neither, to stress, emerged as a plausible IOC candidate. San Francisco, for all its beauty, can hardly get artificial turf put down in a local park; imagine trying to prepare for, and put on, 28 simultaneous world championships, which is what a Summer Games involves. DC, to many overseas, represents the seat of American imperialism; meanwhile, the very last thing the USOC needs is the oversight of 535 self-appointed mayors, meaning the various members of Congress, casting an eye on seven years of preparations.

So it was Boston or Los Angeles.

If you haven’t been to Los Angeles recently, if you’re stuck on a vision of LA as 1984 or 1992, and can only see it as traffic and been-there, you really need to think again.

This from, of all sources, the New York Times, just last month:

Los Angeles is an incredible city and is in the center of a creative explosion right now,” Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s chief creative officer and chief executive, wrote [to the newspaper] in an email. “There is an amazing and inspiring mix of people from the worlds of film, technology, music, architecture, food and culture and now fashion, all doing such interesting things there.”

Boston has more than had its chance

The primary problem with Boston is not that the USOC didn’t do its due diligence. It’s that the USOC board chose to dismiss or ignore that diligence, and in particular the low approval numbers in the polls.

Now the figure stands at 39 percent. That is, in a word, abysmal.

The IOC wants 70 percent.

In LA, the poll numbers were in the high 70s.

When the poll number was 67 percent in Chicago, there was something approaching panic.

Now it’s 39 percent in Boston, and they seriously want to talk about keeping this thing going?

Be real.


Enough, already, with comments such as these from current Boston 2024 spokesman Doug Rubin, who told the New York Times this week, with the committee rolling out new venue plans, “Give us a chance to make the case.”


Boston has had, at the least, a full year to make its case. It was named one of the four USOC finalists in June 2014. Last Dec. 16, those four cities made presentations behind closed doors to the USOC. On Jan. 8, the board picked Boston.

Boston has had ample opportunity to make its case. To say now that it should get more time is, as this space has written before, not fair and not right to the other cities in the domestic campaign, and in particular to the other three finalists.

It’s particularly embarrassing, if not egregious, for Boston 2024 to have sold the USOC on one “concept” and then, six months later, be trotting out a whole new “plan.”

The first “idea” was a walkable, transit-oriented notion in which the city of Boston would be an “Olympic Park.”

This week came word that shooting, originally planned for Boston Harbor, will be 25 miles away, in Billerica. Beach volleyball was originally pitched as Boston’s equivalent of London’s Horse Garden Parade, an iconic, centrally located venue with history; on Wednesday, it was moved to a field in Quincy, just south of Boston. Sailing, it was announced earlier this month, would be moved from Boston Harbor to New Bedford, near Cape Cod.

Attention, Hertz!

The newly proposed site for beach volleyball in Quincy, Massachusetts // Boston 2024

We are all still waiting on word from Holyoke, in western Massachusetts, and the proposal from the mayor there to move snatch up volleyball.

What’s next? Is basketball going to go to from TD Garden, the home of the Boston Celtics, to Springfield, Massachusetts, two hours away, because it’s the birthplace of the game and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame?

All this is a ploy clearly designed to try to win votes for a November 2016 statewide referendum.

As if.

Do you call all these changes "interesting" or do words such as “fraud” start exploding in your head?

The original “concept” made such a big deal, meanwhile, out of involving so many colleges and universities in and around town.

Tennis had originally been planned for Harvard. Now it would be at a facility in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood, with the university apparently distancing itself from the bid.

This from Associated Press, regarding the tennis venue: “They had initially been proposed for Harvard University in nearby Cambridge, Mass. but the Ivy League university, which had once been a prominent component of the city's bid, has been distancing itself from the efforts in recent days.”

When a big dog like Harvard starts laying down, what about others? You seriously expect to run an Olympics without the out-front support of a leading institution such as Harvard?

Again, be real.

Enough, already, with the leadership shuffles at Boston 2024. From all accounts, new bid leader Steve Pagliuca is a decent guy. But starting from scratch — with him a few weeks prior, at a separate meeting in Switzerland, making the rounds of the Olympic Museum in Lausanne and not knowing whether for voting purposes the museum officials are important or not — is not the way to win.

Enough with the Massachusetts Rocky Horror political picture show. Here, alone, is a stand-alone reason to kill Boston 2024:

Boston 2024 may be angling to make this more of a Commonwealth of Massachusetts deal -- maybe even beyond -- but contractually the IOC deals formally with a single entity, and that entity is a city. If Boston Mayor Marty Walsh isn’t willing to sign the host-city contract, that in and of itself is enough to kill the deal. Right now. Done.

Enough, too, with the contrast between the Olympic values — friendship, excellence and respect — and a man later identified as the mayor’s cousin, at one of the various community meetings this spring, calling a woman expressing opposition to Boston 2024 a “fucking piece of shit.”

Enough as well with Pollyanna-ish op-ed pieces like the one posted Wednesday on Huffington Post from Angela Ruggiero, the IOC (athlete commission) member who is also a USOC board member. It was outdated even as it went up, touting the athlete experience — the city as Olympic Park — when that very same day the beach volleyball-to-Quincy announcement was being made, following the shooting-to-Billerica and sailing-to-New Bedford switch-outs, with more almost certain to follow.

Come on.

Ruggiero, who like Probst was in Lausanne last week, surely has to know better. She has to know the prevailing mood among their fellow IOC members. If she doesn’t, she’s not talking to the right people — or, as someone who, as she acknowledged in her HuffPost piece, got her undergraduate and M.B.A. degrees in Boston, has a serious conflict of interest and ought to recuse herself from any June 30 vote.

Time is of the essence.

“Better faster than later,” an IOC member who is the president of one of the most important international federations said in Lausanne. “It’s an uphill battle.”

“If it’s inevitable,” said another IOC member, “it’s obvious it needs to be pulled immediately."

What we have here is a bait-and-switch

Rule No. 1 of politics is look after yourself. Thus the mayor of Boston and the governor of Massachusetts have to be ever-so-quietly tripping over themselves in a race to bring the execution hammer down, and hard, on Boston 2024. What we have here, friends, is a situation that is not good and is not going to get better. This space said so nearly two months ago in urging the relevant authorities to pull the bid. It’s actually worse now than then, and here’s why: Boston 2024 has devolved into a bait-and-switch, and if all involved would just step back and see it for what it is, and has become, they would be well-advised — for their own self-preservation — to kill it now.

Before it truly gets ugly.

This means — especially — the U.S. Olympic Committee, too.

What we have here, bottom line, is one of the most inexplicable failures in recent Olympic memory of due diligence.

Forget for a moment about being the mayor of Boston or governor of Massachusetts. If you were the mayor, governor or president of the chamber of commerce representing one of the nearly three dozen cities that got looked at and passed over in the course of this WTF process, wouldn’t you start wondering about matters such as “accountability” and “oversight”? To whom might you direct your concerns?

Further, who now should have a high level of confidence in the USOC to run a bid process? Considering: Chicago 2016? New York 2012? Now this for 2024?

The USOC 2024 process

The USOC embarked in February 2013 on a path designed to gauge interest in the 2024 Summer Games. It sent out letters to the mayors of 35 cities.

In June 2014, the USOC cut that list to four: Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington.

Last Dec. 16, the four cities made presentations behind closed doors to the USOC board of directors.

On Jan. 8, the board picked Boston.

Ultimately, San Francisco and DC were never going to be viable, each for different reasons. The contest, really, got down to LA and Boston.

Boston was chosen, purportedly because of the walkability of many of its venues centered around its collection of colleges and universities; the strength of its leadership team, featuring businessman John Fish; and its “athlete-focused vision” for the Games.

USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun, in a news release, when Boston was picked: the USOC “couldn’t be more excited about the strong partnership we’ve established with the leadership team in Boston,” primarily Fish and Mayor Marty Walsh.

USOC board chair Larry Probst: “We’re excited about our plans to submit a bid for the 2024 Games and feel we have an incredibly strong partner in Boston that will work with us to present a compelling bid.”

But wait.

What about the vocal, local opposition?

In Los Angeles, poll numbers in favor of the Games ran to the high 70s. Those kinds of numbers are virtually unheard-of in a democracy.

At that closed-door meeting in December, Walsh either did — or did not — say there was no “real opposition” in Boston.

It simply could not be the case that there was no opposition.

Poll numbers in favor of the Games have consistently run about or under 50 percent, dropping as low as into the 30s. Opposition has been organized and loud. When asked if public funds would be used, opposition to the Games skyrockets.

How could the USOC have so failed to vet Boston appropriately?

The Boston situation

Since the day Boston was selected, the situation has gone from bad to worse.

There has been misstep after misstep — public relations, organizational, political.

Some have been widely publicized, including the blunder by Angela Ruggiero, the U.S. hockey star and now International Olympic Committee member, who on Monday told the Boston city council, “Right now, the USOC is going through a similar vetting process to make sure Boston is the right city. So there’s no guarantee Boston will be the city in September,” when the IOC requires a formal submission of bids.

Strike one: wasn’t that vetting — in other terms, that due diligence — supposed to have been done by January, when the USOC made its choice?

Strike two: “no guarantee”? Yikes.

Some missteps have not been picked up the mainstream press, which typically is not keyed in to the dynamics of the Olympic bid scene. For instance, the world alpine ski championships were held in Vail, Colorado, in February, the biggest Olympic sports event in the United States in years. The IOC president himself, Thomas Bach, showed up. Did Fish?

And you wonder why in IOC spheres they look at us in the United States and ask why we can’t get our stuff together in these bid races? To date, and this is being gentle, in international circles the talk is this Boston bid has not particularly advanced American chances in 2024. Beyond that, what has happened in the United States has emboldened the likes of Paris, Hamburg, Rome and others.

Back to the particulars of the Boston bid itself.

It’s one thing in an Olympic campaign for there to be tweaks to a bid. But what is now the Boston 2024 bid bears almost no resemblance to the “plan” that got selected in January.

It's worth asking now whether there was actually a “plan.”

That is a huge, indeed fundamental if not unforgivable, part of the problem as it is now.

Instead of walkability, now there is discussion — purportedly spurred by the IOC’s Agenda 2020 would-be reform platform — of having events anywhere and everywhere. All over New England. Chicago, maybe. What about New York?

That’s not fair and that’s not right to the other three dozen cities who started out in this process; it’s especially not fair and not right to LA and, as well, to San Francisco and DC.

To use a distinctly American expression: that’s shifting the goal line once the game starts. Putting it another way — that’s not the American way to play ball.

Again, how could the USOC have made such a fundamental miscalculation?

As for Fish — he is apparently being relegated to the sidelines.

Rich Davey was not part of the bid team that presented to the USOC. Now he is the Boston 2024 chief executive.

Rich Davey, now the Boston 2024 CEO // Getty Images

Steve Pagliuca, said to be in line to be Boston 2024 chairman // Getty Images

Steve Pagliuca, the Bain Capital executive and co-owner of the Boston Celtics, was not part of the bid team. Now he is purportedly in line to become chairman of the Boston bid.

Again, you make a deal with a guy — Fish — and then five months later he seemingly has been told, thanks, dude, see you, and yet you expect everyone else from around the country who took part in the "process" to shrug and carry on as if it’s business as usual? Again, not right and not fair.

If from the get-go the USOC was determined to avoid a repeat of the New York 2012 and Chicago 2016 defeats, there’s this — bid leader Dan Doctoroff from the start was an integral part of the New York effort, bid chief Pat Ryan the same for Chicago. You can’t pin the New York or Chicago losses on either of them. Indeed, Doctoroff since March has been a member of the USOC board of directors; in 2010, the USOC gave Ryan a major award for his efforts on behalf of Chicago 2016.

Big picture:

The Boston “plan” has changed. Leadership has changed. If you think you’re buying an apple and five months later, it’s a lemon, what have you got? What word, or words, would you use to describe that situation?

The referendum conundrum

All this, and we still haven’t gotten to the most unfortunate part of this entire Boston 2024 deal.

The referendum.

No way, absolutely no way, can you expect to make this all about a referendum in November 2016 that aims toward an IOC vote the next summer for the 2024 winner.

Most likely, the referendum would pass. Fifty percent plus one is probably a no-brainer in a blue state with a Democratic candidate running for president of the United States.

Who cares?

It needs to pass by 70 percent. That’s the number the IOC wants to see to feel welcomed.

The fatal flaws here are multiple.

One, 70 percent amounts to very, very tricky math in a democratic (small-d) environment that’s not named “Los Angeles” and doesn’t enjoy the warm memories of the 1984 Olympics.

Two, if the USOC opts to stick with Boston, it guarantees all of us 14 months, from September 2015 until November 2016, of intensified, galvanized, polarized opposition to the bid. The USOC is going to be trying to run two campaigns simultaneously — one aimed at winning the referendum, the other aimed at wooing IOC members. Opponents, who have made plain they understand social media, are going to prove relentless.

If the referendum passes — be sure the opposition is hardly going to give up.

Does this sound like a winning recipe for inviting the IOC to town?

Three, Walsh has been all over the map with this. The day after Boston was chosen, he said, no referendum. Two weeks later, his office issued a statement saying he was “not in support of a referendum,” but adding, “Should the public decide to collect signatures for a referendum, that is a right of the people that the mayor fully supports.”

In March, Fish announced there would be a statewide referendum, saying the mayor along with Gov. Charlie Baker and the USOC were on board.

Now the USOC has committed itself to a strategy that is wholly dependent on the due diligence it should have rightfully done before making its choice.

Which, obviously, it could have avoided altogether by picking Los Angeles.

Disclaimer: I live in Los Angeles. This has nothing to do with what comes next.

You wonder why the USOC didn’t go the easy route — especially when the headlines this week are all about the new $250-million, privately financed, 22,000-seat soccer stadium that’s going to go up in LA at the site of the old Sports Arena, just steps away from the Coliseum, which is where the 1932 and 1984 track and field events (and ceremonies) were held, and where 2024 would have been staged, too.

That is, literally, walkability.

Who's involved with this new stadium? Magic Johnson, the Lakers icon and -- let's remember -- Dream Team 1992 Barcelona Games star. He's now a big-time LA businessman, among other things. Also: Mia Hamm, probably the best-known American female soccer player in history, with three Olympic medals, two gold.


Would there be a referendum now in LA? Who knows?

But so much stuff is getting done now in LA: that new MLS soccer stadium, the imminent arrival of at least one and probably two NFL teams, a $6 billion fundraising campaign at USC (already at $4 billion), even the New York Times touting Los Angeles as hipster central. Plus the biggest secret in LA: $40-billion in voter-approved transit investment to be rolled out over the next 20 years, adding 102 miles of rail, not road, and almost 100 new stations. Also, a 73-story hotel and office building going up downtown that will be the tallest building west of the Mississippi — directed by the very same gentleman, Y.H. Cho, who is in charge of the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea.

Plus the mayor, Eric Garcetti, is a political rock star.

Oh, and the weather.

Really. You just wonder.

The awkward position the USOC has perhaps put itself in now is ensuring that the only — the one and only — place in the entire United States that is guaranteed, absolutely guaranteed, to win a referendum big on the Olympics is Salt Lake City.

You want the Games in this country sometime soon-ish? Salt Lake City 2026. There you go.

The problem there is that the Winter Games simply are not the Summer Games. The Winter Games are great. But the Summer Games are the franchise.

To be clear about one thing: throughout these past several months, the USOC has not, repeat not, been in contact with LA. They have been in the business of giving Boston a chance.

But that time is now at a close.

The USOC’s board meeting is in late June in the Bay Area. For all concerned, it should be clear by then, if not before — like, now — that this charade of a Boston bid be put down.

Suggestions and alternatives

With all that in mind, here are some suggestions:

— The USOC has said the January vote for Boston was unanimous. Not really. The endorsement of Boston, when all was said and done, may have been unanimous. The vote was not. In the interests of transparency, make public the vote: who on the board as it was then constituted voted for Boston and who for LA. Make everyone available to explain why.

— Dump Boston 2024, at the latest by the June board meeting. Sooner, if possible. Back to rule No. 1 of politics: there are a lot of really smart people in a lot of interesting offices across the United States (and IOC headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, and beyond) who have yet to take a close look at this turmoil and who, if they did, would assuredly wonder how and why this got to where it is.

And some alternatives:

— Admit Boston was a mistake. Be humble. They like it around Lausanne and elsewhere when Americans admit to humility. Endure one bad week, PR-wise. Commit to LA for 2024 and 2028, too, because 2024, given the beating the American brand has already taken these past five months, might already be a loss-leader.

— Or simply pull out entirely of 2024. Remember, always: Paris lost by just four votes for 2012 to London, and the IOC likes repeat bidders. In contrast to the American way, the French are going about their 2024 process by building community and political support slowly but surely, cobbling together the needed coalition.

— Salt Lake 2026. After the fiasco that is the 2022 race, it could be a slam-dunk winner. Even after the biggest corruption scandal in Olympic history, the IOC just might be all-too-tempted 24 years later to come back to Utah. That, friends, is called irony.

Boston 2024 is doomed: be done with it


The U.S. Olympic Committee should yank the 2024 Olympic bid from Boston, and now. This is a bad situation. It's almost guaranteed to get worse. The damage to the USOC’s brand and its future is verging toward grave, and that would be intolerable to anyone who thinks reasonably and cares about the Olympic movement in the United States of America. Doubling down on Boston would be a very, very bad bet.

The USOC has spent the past five-plus years, since getting kicked in the pants in October, 2009, when Chicago was booted in voting for the 2016 Summer Games, tirelessly working to rebuild its brand, particularly internationally, working on person-to-person relationships and building goodwill. Now, in the space of not even three months, the whole thing is devolving perilously.

Since picking Boston for 2024, it has become abundantly plain to everyone behind the scenes that the Boston bid seemingly sold the USOC a bill of goods; that it has become all but impossible for the bid to recover from the hole in which it now finds itself; and that the only way out for the USOC, despite the pain, is to admit it made a mistake, dump Boston 2024 and assess its options.

Boston 2024 chair John Fish, left, along with Rich Davey, center, and David Manfredi, right, appear before a hearing at Boston City Hall earlier this month // photo Boston Globe via Getty Images

One option is to sit out 2024 entirely.

Again, the hole is deep. This has to be acknowledged.

At the same time, it’s still early in the 2024 process, and 2024, for a variety of reasons, should be the Americans’ time. Emphasis: should.

That’s why the better option would be to take a cooling-off period, say 60 to 90 days. After that, the sensible thing would be to do what the USOC should have done in January: make Los Angeles the bid city.

The only way that works, however, is to declare Los Angeles — which it rightfully is — “America’s Olympic city,” and to make it plain now, in 2015, that LA will be the bid city for 2024, and if a 2024 bid falls short, for 2028.

The International Olympic Committee tends to like humble second-time bids, a strategy that has not been the American way.

A cooling-off period, meanwhile, would give the USOC and LA leaders a chance to strategize — about everything from communications to finance to finding an entirely appropriate role in the bid for Anita DeFrantz, the senior IOC member to the United States.

If Agenda 2020, IOC president Thomas Bach’s purported reform plan, means anything, it means creativity and flexibility — the right to implement change to protect your brand and, most importantly, your athletes.

Right now, you’ve got a majority of the people of the city of Boston saying, in essence, we do not want the athletes of the world to come to our city. They may not know that’s what they’re saying. But in Olympic-speak, loud and clear, that is what they are saying.

If I am the USOC, that is not who I want as my partner.

Starting place in assessing 2024: there are big-picture, and conflicting, data points.

One, the Summer Games have not been been in the United States since 1996. Also, NBC just paid $7.65 billion for the U.S. TV rights from 2021 to 2032. The first Summer Games? 2024.

Two, Bach is German. During his term as IOC president, which will almost assuredly stretch from 2013 until 2025, the IOC members will get one chance — and one chance only — to give him a German city for the 2024 Games.

Incredibly, the German Olympic confederation for 2024 selected Hamburg instead of Berlin.

Berlin — what an amazing city — could have upset everyone’s calculus.

Hamburg — assuming it passes a referendum, and there’s no guarantee —  would still be a strong candidate, for the obvious reason.

Then there’s Paris. Paris is Paris.

And Rome. Same.

And this: the Summer Games have never been away from Europe, the IOC’s traditional base, for more than 12 years. Never, ever. The Games were in London in 2012. In 2016 they will go to Rio de Janeiro. In 2020, Tokyo.

In 2024 — hello, Europe?

Always be mindful that one of the jobs of the IOC president is to cobble together the strongest field possible. This has special resonance for 2024, after the disaster that is the 2022 Winter Games race, now down to just two, Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan.

There’s a school of thought that Bach wanted Boston all along to ensure a stronger international field. This argument goes that Los Angeles, with its glitter, celebrities, perfect weather, 17 days of beach and Hollywood parties and technical merit that connects powerfully with Agenda 2020, might be so killer attractive that it could break that 12-years-back-to-Europe cycle.

Just to be super-obvious about this: Los Angeles has an Olympic stadium proven (1984, 1932) for ceremonies and track and field. Boston? It’s got no suitable stadium. There is no such thing as a pop-up Olympic stadium. Why has the IOC never voted for such a proposal? Because it is ridiculous.

What is Boston proposing? A pop-up stadium. Thanks.

Rome, Paris, Hamburg — maybe even, as time may tell, Budapest and Baku, Azerbaijan.

So, Boston is the one that got named by the USOC in January. To the surprise of many.

Even though — and this must be stressed — insiders knew all along that key USOC players wanted Los Angeles.

There were, in January, multiple failures at the USOC board meeting.

There were failures of leadership.

The board should have been lined up behind LA from the get-go. That is the way it works in the Olympic world — see Bach’s performance orchestrating the full IOC in Monaco in December, when he rammed through all 40 points of Agenda 2020, scheduled for two days, in one.

There were USOC staff failures in January — you can read the board minutes and intuit who swayed the board.

As March turns to April, It’s naive to think the USOC isn’t already asking hard questions about what ought to be done.

It’s not going to be fun when this goes down but it has to be done.

And, again, now.


First, timing.

Almost every article that has been written about the proposed referendum has missed the basic point.

It’s not that the Boston people have suddenly been touched by Olympic lightning and want to have a referendum. It’s that they want to have it in November, 2016.

That is 14 months past the decision date.

The USOC has to submit an "applicant" in September, 2015.

A ballot measure in November, 2016, that tanks — and this one almost surely would tank — does the USOC no good. All it would do is leave the USOC in the worst of all positions.

Why would the measure tank?

Because anyone who works in politics — or covered it for years — knows it is a basic rule that a referendum’s chance of success is abysmally low when polling starts out under 50 percent.

As Kriston Capps writes in Citylab, the referendum “narrows the chance that Boston will host a Summer Olympics from unlikely to vanishingly small. Boston voters are bound to turn it down.”

A recap of the polling numbers from January to March: 51 percent to 44 percent to 36 percent in favor of the bid.

The numbers opposing the bid have gone the other way: 33 percent to 46 to 52.

The margin of error for the poll is 4.9 percent.

Boston 2024 has said time and again that no public funds would be used to stage the Olympics. But 65 percent of people there believe public funds will be needed.

“I don’t know a single person who believes that — that they’re going to build a soccer stadium and all these other facilities at no cost to the taxpayer,” Mike Barnicle, the former Boston newspaper columnist who is now an MSNBC contributor, told the Washington Post. “No one believes that.”

Just for comparison: before the USOC decision, the poll numbers in LA, depending on whether you wanted the LA city or USOC poll, were 77 or 78 percent in favor of the Games. You want higher numbers? Poll a group of golden retrievers and ask if they like bacon.

Big whoop if a November, 2016, referendum in favor of Boston 2024 is 50 percent plus one. To be credible, the IOC wants mid-60s. To be honest: it really wants 70 percent or better.

It’s virtually unheard-of to move up from the 30s to the 60s in a year, and Boston 2024 doesn’t have a year. The old political saying is that it would take Elvis and Jesus to make that happen, and — as the saying also goes — neither is available.

Let’s look at other Olympic measures around the world, just to see how they have been received recently:

St. Moritz/Davos 2022: (In March 2013): fail, 52.7 against. Vienna 2028 (March 2013): fail, 72 percent against. Munich 2022 (November, 2013): fail, 51-59 percent against in four localities. Krakow 2022 (May 2014): fail, 69.7 percent against.

Note that only one of these four took place after the 2014 Sochi Games, with its associated $51 billion price tag.

Obvious question: if these four have gone down in flames, why would Boston be different? American exceptionalism?

We haven’t even gotten to what a Boston referendum might say, or the wording, or any of that. Frankly, for this conversation, it’s a moot point — immaterial.

More real talk:

The ‘no’ side in Boston can go so ‘no’ in a campaign. What is the ‘yes’ side supposed to say? It can’t run a vigorous anti-‘no’ campaign. That’s what normal campaigns do. Not in this context, though. That would not be in keeping with the Olympic values.

Beyond which, as this space has pointed out previously, the Boston bid has virtually no communications strategy.

One small point to illustrate how awful their communications have been, and then the larger point.

Small: the weekend before this one, the bid sent out a tweet — since deleted — of Top 10 Olympic-related movies with this message: “Get inspired. On your couch. #LazySunday #Boston2024”

No. 1 on the list: “Olympia,” by Leni Riefenstahl, the German filmmaker who had a close association with Adolf Hitler. Another feel-good flick on the list: “Munich,” No. 7 on the list, the 2005 Steven Spielberg-directed thriller about the hunt for the Black September terrorists responsible for the abduction and murders of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches at the 1972 Munich Games.

One can hardly find words to describe how tone-deaf, and off-message, this tweet could possibly be for a bid committee.

Good thing it has hardly been seen internationally. Well, until now.

Larger point:

All along, the Boston bid’s message has been diametrically opposite from what it should be.

It is: bring the Games to Boston so we can improve Boston.

It should be: let us in Boston show how via the Games we can make the world better.

This is fundamental bid messaging 101. Just incredible that it's so backward.

More real talk:

Whatever the Boston bid team said to the USOC in December that then became the focus of the board debate in January, this is the case now:

The plan is far from finalized.

Because of that, the budgets can’t be. That’s just logic.

Because of that, no one knows what needs to be built, who’s going to pay for it and why they need it. Or, elementally, should want it.

Just as a for instance: did anyone bother to ask the folks in and around Franklin Park, the planned site of equestrian and pentathlon, if the Olympic agenda met community needs?

Beyond all of that, the would-be Olympic enterprise in Boston is met time and again with suspicion because of widespread memory about the Big Dig, the highway mega-project that for almost everyone in the area screams cost overruns and more. With that, you're supposed to sell an Olympics? In the aftermath of Sochi?

Following on from that:

How is Boston 2024 supposed to raise money for a referendum? And who would then be working on a bid when so much time and energy would be focused on that existential referendum?

The Boston bid committee is a 501 (c)(3). That means it is allowed to raise money for charitable purposes but broadly speaking may not participate in political campaigns. A 501 (c)(3) can engage in limited lobbying with respect to a ballot initiative but lobbying must be an “insubstantial part” of its overall activities — say, 3 to 5 percent.

Obviously, Boston 2024 would need to do way more than that.

That means any real political activity relating to a ballot initiative would have to be done by a separate entity. That could not be a 501 (c)(3).

Which would you rather donate to? The one you can get a tax-deduction for? Or not?

Let’s say that Boston 2024 chair John Fish does the work-around and creates a political action committee to raise funds. That may solve the logistical challenge. But that just feeds right into the very essence of the communication problem confronting the Boston 2024 group as it is already —right or wrong, fair or not, that it’s a group of elites who only are looking out for themselves and don’t really care about the best interests of the public.

Already, there is talk in European newspapers — in Italy a few days ago — of how Boston is on a slippery slope.

Coming up soon, there’s a big meeting in Miami of what’s called PASO, the Pan-American Sports Organization. There will be maybe a dozen and a half IOC members there.

Better for the USOC to cut its losses now. Because what is the USOC supposed to go to Miami and say?

“The Games fit into Boston’s long-term planning?”


It’s hard to admit a mistake but worse when the mistake metastasizes.

The USOC is the steward of the Olympic movement in the United States. It has a responsibility, and now it must do what must be done.

Boston 2024: a Cool Hand Luke problem


Maybe the Boston 2024 bid could have gotten off to a less promising start. Though it’s hard to see how. The latest dose of dismal news, a WBUR poll released Thursday evening: 36 percent of Boston-area voters support bringing the Summer Games to Boston in 2024. That’s down from 44 percent in a poll last month. The poll also found that 52 percent now oppose the bid. That’s up from 46 percent in February.

The poll of 504 registered voters was conducted March 16-18, according to WBUR, and contains a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

Just for reference: the International Olympic Committee, as a rough rule, wants to see bid-city poll numbers standing at or near 70 percent. Easy math: 36 percent is about half that. So that’s where things stand in Boston.

As The Captain says to Luke in the 1967 classic, "What we've got here is failure to communicate"

For entertainment value, according to a story Thursday on Xinhua, the poll numbers in Zhangjiakou, the would-be co-host city for most snow events for the Beijing 2022 Winter Games bid, a town about 120 miles northwest of Beijing — over there, they’re 99.9 percent in favor of the Games.

When the IOC evaluation commission comes to Beijing and Zhangjiakou next week, you bet they’ll be treated to scenes of happy Chinese!

Boston? What if an IOC evaluation commission were to come to town now?

Well, democracies tend to be, you know, a little different. And that’s — OK.

Indeed, it’s more than OK. Which is totally the point here.

The upside for the Boston bid is this: it’s March 2015.

The IOC won’t vote until the third quarter of 2017.

And, as U.S. Olympic Committee chief executive Scott Blackmun rightly pointed out in a teleconference last week with reporters, there’s lots of time for the Boston 2024 people and the USOC to get things right.

It’s little wonder people are cranky in Boston. They’ve just had the worst winter ever. The winter has been so bad a majority would probably be against puppies.

But seriously.

Blackmun also made another hugely relevant point last week.

No one, he said, remembers the London 2012 bid in 2003 -- two years before the vote.

Well, a few of us, who have been at the Olympic bid scene for years, do.  That's when the London bid was run by the American executive Barbara Cassani, who was well-meaning, indeed, and put down a solid foundation but didn’t have what it took to get the bid across the finish line. Some of us well recall the kick-start the next year at the Palais de Beaulieu convention center in Lausanne, Switzerland, when Seb Coe took over.

From there the bid took off. The rest, as they say, is history.

The problem with the Boston bid right now is hugely self-evident.

It’s not John Fish.

It’s communication.

There is, like, virtually none.

It's like Strother Martin says to Paul Newman in the 1967 film classic "Cool Hand Luke": "What we've got here is failure to communicate."

An Olympic bid is a political campaign of the highest order. This is big-boy and -girl baseball. As a reminder: the very first call the president of the IOC, Thomas Bach, got when he was elected in 2013 was from Vladimir Putin. So let’s not kid ourselves about the magnitude of the likes of who can be involved in the Olympic dynamic.

One would think the Boston people would have been, from the get-go, prepared to step into this scene and run like the wind.

But no.

One reads in the Boston Globe about bid-committee salaries of $300,000, $215,000, $182,500, $175,000 and more, and you wonder why ordinary people are — outraged?

One reads, too, in the Globe that Northwind Strategies and Keyser Public Strategies are pulling down $15,000 monthly for their communications advice. Another company is making $9,000 per month; yet another is getting $5,000.

Let’s see: that’s $44,000 per month for communications advice.

That’s a lot of cash. Perhaps it is going for the community meetings now ongoing.

Now here’s the question: what do any of these communications strategists know about winning an Olympic bid?

The guess: pretty close to nothing, zip, zero, nada.

If the question was put to any of them, who is Lydia Nsekera, where is she from and why is she increasingly influential within the IOC (and FIFA) --  how many could answer (and without looking it up)?

Not that anyone owes me anything, but after 16-plus years of covering the Olympic movement, and especially having covered every single Olympic bid campaign since 1999, you might think that at $44,000 per month, someone might want to, you know, maybe give me a shout. Maybe I might know something.

It has been crickets since the USOC chose Boston.

Northwind did issue a news release Thursday night after the WBUR poll numbers came out. Here is the deadly-dull opening sentence:

“In response to recent polls relative to public support for Boston hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Boston 2024 today highlighted its increasingly successful grassroots programs and a recent independent economic impact analysis as evidence that public support is set to rise steadily in the months ahead throughout the Commonwealth.”

Makes you want to stand up and cheer, right? No. It makes you want to slump down in your seat and go, what? That's because it's 50 words long, most of them a mouthful apiece, and you want to scream.

By the way, the USOC has been relentless that this is supposed to be America’s bid. Why the ongoing focus on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts? Hello? Those of us out here in the rest of the country would like to remind you that there is sentient life west of your town, and you should start acting like it. Like, immediately.

Not only is that release dreadfully long and impossible to dissect, it came out hours after the poll numbers. Since it’s not a secret there was going to be a poll, why wasn’t a release worked up ahead of time -- so that it could go out when the numbers themselves went out? This isn't rocket science.

In that same vein, the bid is getting abused on social media, especially by No Boston 2024 community activists. If I am the opposition right now, I am laughing at how easy it is. For them, it must be — fun.

The bid has almost zero positive presence on Twitter, in particular. How can this be? In 2015, when a bid that is supposed to be stressing how smart it is — with purported connections to brainy universities — can’t have some whipsmart college kid at a keyboard? Seriously?

So, now a pause and a deep breath.

As Blackmun said, there’s a long way to go.

Boston caught a huge break earlier this week when, for reasons unfathomable, German Olympic officials opted to put forward Hamburg instead of Berlin for 2024.

Crazy. Berlin would have had an unbelievably great narrative. The emphatic end of Hitler. The stadium where Usain Bolt ran 9.58 and 19.19. The rise of a fantastically cool city after the Cold War. The joy of the 2006 World Cup all over again. And so much more.

But what do I know — all that against a northern European port city?

Maybe Hamburg is the Boston of Germany. So, whatever.

What Boston needs is someone who gets how to communicate, and now.

That person needs to be someone who also knows the Olympic scene, and now.

Yes, 2017 is a long time away, and in some ways it is, but if you are Boston 2024 things cannot keep going this way.

Because Paris is likely going to be out there very, very soon. And Paris is not Hamburg.

Some unsolicited suggestions:

Inevitably, there will be pressure on Patrick Sandusky, the USOC communication chief. Sandusky is not, repeat not, the guy for this job. He already has a big-enough job.

Jill Geer at USA Track & Field knows her business. She is tough and professional and knows New England. She also will kill me for suggesting her, because she just moved her family back to Indianapolis, but she would be a great choice.

At the U.S. Olympic Committee, there are two first-rate options, both Sandusky deputies:

Mark Jones has already spent weeks in Boston. Mark is solid, solid, solid. He would be great.

So, too, Christy Cahill. Christy knows her stuff as well and, intriguingly, she reminds a lot of people of Jackie Brock-Doyle when Jackie took over everything comms in London. Now Jackie is revered across the United Kingdom as the expert she has proven herself to be.

While the Boston 2024 people sort this out, they should reach out, too, to Stratos Safioleas, who is as good at social media as anyone in the Olympic world. If they want to then hire someone at MIT or Harvard or wherever to help Stratos out, fine. But first get Stratos on board if you’re interested in stemming the carnage on Twitter.

Big picture — Olympic bidding is, again, a distinct world way beyond the local give-and-take of Boston politics. You have to think differently.

This should have been so obvious. That’s why you got chosen in the first place, isn’t it?

By the way, Ms. Nsekera is an IOC member (since 2009) from Burundi. She is since 2014 chair of the IOC’s women and sport commission. Since 2013, she has been an elected member of the FIFA executive council.

If you had to look all that up, or you didn’t know that Ms. Nsekera was earlier this week in New York at the United Nations, you need to get out of this game and into another. Maybe local politics is more your thing. Because Olympic bidding is truly for professionals only, who know and understand what’s at issue. There are billions of dollars at stake and communications needs to be a huge priority.


A wink, a nod, an op-ed, insurance, so many questions


Give the U.S. Olympic Committee credit. For years, as the dismal results from the New York 2012 and Chicago 2016 votes proved, it simply was not effectively in the Olympic bid game. What it needed was a wink and a nod, a high sign if you will, from the International Olympic Committee, that the IOC not only wanted a city to bid from the USOC, but which city. The USOC got that last week when IOC president Thomas Bach wrote an op-ed in the Boston Globe two days before the USOC picked its city for the 2024 Summer Games. It picked Boston.

The fascinating question now is whether it’s genuinely in the IOC’s interest, in signaling that choice, for Boston to win.

Or whether in seemingly directing the USOC to pick Boston, the IOC is only playing the USOC — manipulating it so that the IOC gets as strong a field as possible for a 2024 race designed to attract maximum worldwide attention after the debacle that is the 2022 Winter Games race, which has devolved into a two-city derby, Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan.

The IOC won’t make its 2024 choice until the summer of 2017, two-plus years from now.

USOC board chairman Larry Probst at Friday's news conference in Boston // Getty Images

A lot can, and surely, will happen. Bids are possible from Rome; Paris; Germany; and elsewhere.

If the South Africans finally prove serious about getting in for 2024, they will run Durban. Because of the IOC’s stubborn refusal to allow bid visits — a plank that didn’t make it into the so-called “Agenda 2020” reforms, Bach’s 40-point plan approved last month in Monaco — the members will not be allowed to visit Boston. But most of the members will have been to seaside Durban, because that was where the IOC held its assembly in 2011.

To be perfectly blunt: IOC campaigns are not for the faint of heart or the politically naive.

So many variables.

What if, as is now the talk in some circles, FIFA, the international soccer federation, awards its 2026 World Cup in 2017 — in, say, May 2017? That is, just before the IOC vote.

Wouldn’t US Soccer love to get back on the opportunity it missed out on for 2018 and 2022, won by Russia and Qatar, respectively? Wouldn’t FIFA love to capitalize on the purportedly growing U.S. interest in soccer? Don’t think for a second, by the way, that there is much love lost between FIFA and the IOC.

What then for an American Olympic bid?

While Bach and FIFA’s Sepp Blatter — assuming Blatter is re-elected — sort things out, both for 2022 and 2026, this much is elemental: the way Bach runs the IOC is in many ways evocative of Juan Antonio Samaranch, the IOC president from 1980-2001.

Samaranch knew what he wanted. Bach seems to be following the same path.

As an example: in Monaco, Bach allocated two days for passage of Agenda 2020. Just like Samaranch would have done, however, he clearly had worked things out beforehand via personal meetings or on the phone (or, now, via email). All 40 measures got passed in just one day.

That is why the Bach op-ed piece in Tuesday’s Globe is so telling.

By itself, it was anodyne, a recitation of the passage in Monaco of the 40 Agenda 2020 bullet points.

The issue here is context.

The other three cities competing against Boston for USOC consideration: San Francisco, Washington, Los Angeles.

Did Bach’s op-ed run in the San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times? No.

Did it run in the New York Times, the de facto paper of record in the United States? No.

USA Today? No.

Let’s not be obtuse.

When unusual things present themselves, reasonable people are given to ask, what’s going on?

In this instance: why did the IOC take the unusual step of interjecting itself into the USOC’s domestic bid process?

Theory 1:

Last May, NBC paid $7.65 billion dollars (plus an extra $100 million “signing bonus” to be used for “the promotion of Olympism”) for the right to televise the Games in the United States from 2021 through 2032. The first Summer Games: 2024.

NBC has never -- and would never -- exercise its influence to lobby for a particular city. The network does not do that. That's the gospel truth.

However, this much is not rocket science: an East Coast time zone amounts to a home Games for NBC Olympics, which is based in Stamford, Connecticut.

Washington was never going to get 2024. Never. So that leaves Boston.

If this theory is plausible, then the Globe op-ed signals that what you see is what you get — Bach has given the USOC the wink and the nod and the rest of the next two-plus years is pretty much for show. Hey, Paris, Rome, Durban, whoever: thanks for playing and see you in Boston in 2024.

So is it really that simple? Or are things more layered?

Theory 2:

Everyone connected to the process knew Los Angeles had the best bid. Even the oddsmakers, who made it an even-money choice.

Indeed, the LA bid contained surprises that may never become public, including a big bang that unequivocally wowed everyone at the USOC and would have gone far to enhance the IOC’s furtherance of sustainability and legacy.

Further, the choice of Boston is layered with contradictions.

“Bostonians are well known for their enthusiasm for sport and the city has a great heritage in sport, science and education,” Bach told Associated Press after the selection.

Like Los Angeles doesn’t?

Los Angeles has three top-25 universities: Cal Tech, USC and UCLA. Boston has two: Harvard and MIT.

You want championships: Lakers? Kings? USC in college football? UCLA in college basketball?

The very thing that supposedly worked against Los Angeles in recent bid efforts — that the dorms at USC and UCLA served as housing in 1984 — is now a big plus for Boston’s 2024 bid? College dorms in Boston are a plus but a minus in LA? Say what?

There are dozens of universities in and around Boston. That’s the key demographic the IOC is seeking, and supposedly a big Boston plus. What about all the Cal State schools (LA, Northridge, Dominguez Hills, on and on), the Claremont colleges, the dozens and dozens of community colleges in and around Los Angeles?

The IOC, in Agenda 2020, talks big about sustainability. Yet Boston 2024 has to build an Olympic stadium while Los Angeles is home to the iconic Coliseum.

How much will that Olympic stadium cost? Let’s see. LA has been without an NFL team for 20 years. Last Monday, the owner of the St. Louis Rams — the Rams used to play in Southern California — announced plans to build a stadium in Inglewood, California, the LA Times noting that new stadiums tend to run to $1 billion or more. How is a new Olympic stadium in Boston going to prove in line — in any way — with the Agenda 2020 call for enhanced frugality?

And this: “I knew that Boston was destined to win this,” Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said after the USOC decision. As the Boston Globe reported, Boston 2024 paid about $1 million for an insurance policy of up to $25 million to protect City Hall “from any liabilities associated with the bid,” signing off on the policies Wednesday — that is, the day before the USOC decision.

So interesting. The standard USOC bid city agreement between calls for a city to pay $25 million in “liquidated damages” to the USOC if for some reason something freaky happens and the city drops out. For those not familiar with the term, “liquidated damages” is fancy lawyer talk for “cash money.” Essentially, if indeed that is what the policy went for, what Boston 2024 did was shift it so that $25 million is now some insurance company's worry.

But why?

And why Wednesday, the day before the USOC meeting?

The Globe report also said that Boston officials were the only group from among the four bid cities that insisted on buying this kind of insurance. Why? Also, you know, this kind of insurance takes a little bit of time to line up. It's not like you go down to your neighborhood insurance agent and say, hey, I'd like to lay down $1 million for $25 million, assuming again this is what it was for. Did Boston get a wink and a nod from the USOC in advance, and if so, when?

So many questions.

Good thing Boston officials have pledged transparency. For the sake of Journalism 101, let's hope it's retroactive, not just going forward.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh at the Friday news conference // Getty Images

More questions: what was at the basis of all that vigorous debate the USOC said it went through?

The USOC has suggested it will explain why Boston -- perhaps as soon as early this week.

In the meantime, to stick to the core of Theory 2, is it that the IOC could prefer Boston because Los Angeles — especially with the support of key Olympic insiders — might well have been a sure winner?

Did Bach, in any event, want Boston to assert primacy over those others, who were known to prefer LA?

There is this, though, which is easy: it’s in the interest of the IOC president to secure as many cities as possible for whatever race is being run.

No question Bach wants a U.S. bid.

Even so, does he also have a counter-interest for 2024, to make Europe look good, particularly after six European cities dropped out for 2022?

The first European Games, in Baku, Azerbaijan, are due to be held this summer, and will almost surely be a success, giving renewed momentum to that continent’s bids. Always, always, always remember, too: the IOC is Eurocentric.

At most, Bach got three U.S. votes in 2013 for the presidency (there were then three U.S. IOC members, now four, with the addition of USOC board chairman Larry Probst). There are 40-something IOC members from Europe.

Do not be fooled, not even for a second, by the statement from the White House, which said President Obama and the First Lady “strongly support” the Boston bid. Even if the president does, and let's assume for argument he really does, for the sake of securing 55 or so IOC votes, the president's words are -- sorry to say -- dust in the wind.

Note: Bach has visited more than 90 heads of state since being elected IOC president in September 2013. President Obama is not among them.

Note, too: the statement was issued by the White House press secretary. When the president wants to emphasize something, as he did when California Sen. Barbara Boxer last Wednesday announced her impending retirement, that comes out as a different kind of statement — that’s from Obama himself.

These things matter a lot in politics, and they matter for a White House that, as the IOC will readily recall, sent a delegation to Sochi only last February that absolutely was designed to signal a protest about the Russian anti-gay law.

It's instructive to observe that Bach deliberately made public the official letter of support and sympathy he wrote to French president François Hollande after last week's terror attacks in Paris. One can argue whether such a letter is eminently decent as well as a show of humanity or treads dangerously close to the kind of thing you might see from a head of state, which Bach assuredly is not. At any rate, several world leaders attended Sunday's massive rally in Paris, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of of Israel and President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority. The United States? Represented by its ambassador to France, Jane D. Hartley.

In the Olympic world, where protocol is hugely significant, appearances matter, too. And can be long remembered.

The White House statement about Boston 2024 also said, “The city has taught all of us what it means to be Boston Strong,” a reference to the 2013 marathon bombings.

Bach, in his comments to AP, said, “The Boston bid will be a strong one.”

With profound and enduring respect for the victims of the marathon attacks, this gentle note: the New York 2012 bid was launched after the Twin Towers went down. The IOC was not sufficiently moved, nearly four years later, when the 2012 vote was taken, to award the Games to New York; they went to London. By the time the 2024 vote is taken, the events that shook Boston near the finish line of the 2013 marathon will similarly have been four years prior.

Bach also told AP about Boston, “The bid also has the great potential to build on the strength of the athletes from the U.S. Olympic team,” adding, “U.S athletes have a worldwide reputation and will be a huge asset for the bid.”

This, to be diplomatic, is phraseology that Bach has borrowed from his predecessor, Jacques Rogge, when Rogge was asked by reporters to asses Chicago 2016 and New York 2012. Recall how those worked out.

To be clear: the USOC has, since 2009, made great strides in building relationships internationally. There seems to be zero question Bach has taken an interest in Boston.

There are also so many questions yet to be answered about why.

And about whether the time is right for the USOC, and Boston, and whether together they can craft a winning narrative to an IOC membership that is no longer widely hostile to American interests, as was the case during the Rogge years, but perhaps still wary and likely knows not very much about Boston.

The USOC is in the 2024 game with one objective only — to win. That has been made abundantly clear, time and again.

In that spirit, this: the Agenda 2020 rules now allow for five exceptions to the rule that IOC members must retire at age 70. In Monaco, one of the five exceptions was immediately granted to Gian Franco Kasper, who is Swiss and the head of the international ski federation.

This is what Kasper told AP about a U.S. 2024 bid, and this is what the USOC is still very much up against:

“Times have changed a little bit, but it depends how they will present their candidature. If they,” meaning the Americans,” come back with the old arrogance they had before, then of course it will not be helpful. But I think they have learned the lesson, too.”