Greg Louganis

Ding, dong, the wicked Boston bid is dead


From the opening words of Mayor Marty Walsh’s hastily called news conference Monday morning, it was apparent that the wicked Boston 2024 bid was dead. He started by talking about how, back in January, when the U.S. Olympic Committee picked Boston, there was a big celebration. This is how you tell a story when the story is over — going back to when it all started. This news conference became a sweet trip down memory lane, with thanks to everyone who had taken part, before abruptly making a segue into political comedy and absolute farce. After avowedly being a supporter of the bid for months, here was the mayor now in a race to beat the USOC to the punch in announcing the candidacy was over — saying he would not sign the host-city contract. This even though he had repeatedly committed in months prior to doing just that.

Thanks for being such a great “partner,” mayor!

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh at Monday's news conference // screenshot

Some three or so hours later, the USOC issued a statement saying it and Boston 2024 had come to a  “joint decision” to withdraw the candidacy.

All in, the timing offered a measure of big-picture irony: it was three years ago, to the day, that the London 2012 Games opened. And here were the USOC and Boston 2024 saying, see ya.

The three-page statement makes no mention of a USOC board vote. You can believe that if there had been one, it would have been so noted. So why no vote? Because the mayor made this super-easy Monday for all involved.

Out. Done. In New England, everyone, it's back to the intrigue surrounding Tom Brady and Deflategate. Or the godawful Red Sox, in last place in the American League East.

The action Monday marks the very first time a U.S. bid has been so pulled — though Colorado voters essentially gave the 1976 Winter Games back to the IOC, which then staged them in Innsbruck, Austria.

This move also marks a third straight fail for the USOC, after bids from Chicago for 2016 and New York for 2012.

This last point is likely to be made repeatedly in the time ahead.

Even so, there is at least now the opportunity for a fresh start, presumably in Los Angeles.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a statement that said, "At this time, my office has not had conversations with the United States Olympic Committee. I continue to believe that Los Angeles is the ideal Olympic city and we have always supported the USOC in their effort to return the Games to the United States. I would be happy to engage in discussions with the USOC about how to present the strongest and most fiscally responsible bid on behalf of our city and nation."

The International Olympic Committee has made it abundantly clear to the USOC that it wants an American bid.

Understand that because of the Boston disaster a U.S. bid for 2024 now faces considerable odds.

Too, the FIFA indictments brought by the U.S. Justice Department hang over any American effort. As well, the developing field in Europe — Paris, Hamburg, Rome, Budapest — is compelling and the Games have never been away from Europe for more than 12 years; London 2012 plus Rio 2016 plus Tokyo 2020 equals? Also, Toronto is now mulling a 2024 bid and it’s in the eastern time zone, gravy for U.S. and Canadian broadcasters.

But, again, the IOC, and in particular key influencers within the movement, are keen on a United States effort for 2024.

Now the issue is whether the USOC board will pick up the signals that have been delivered in every which way to its senior leadership — and go with LA.

Time is keenly of the essence, with an IOC all-members meeting this week in Kuala Lumpur and a Sept. 15 deadline for the formal submission of any 2024 candidacy.

Scott Blackmun, the USOC’s chief executive, said in that statement, “When we made the decision to bid for the 2024 Olympic Games, one of the guiding principles that we adopted was that we would only submit a bid that we believed could win.”

He also said, “The USOC would very much like to see an American city host” in 2024, adding, “We will immediately begin to explore whether we can do so on a basis consistent with our guiding principles, to which we remain firmly committed.”

And: “We understand the reality of the timeline that is before us. We will brief the media on our progress towards a decision later in August …”

With that in mind, there is only one option: LA.

It’s so super-obvious.

As three-time Olympic gold medalist Rowdy Gaines said on Twitter, “RIP Boston … time to come to the rescue Los Angeles #2024”

Los Angeles staged the Games in 1932 and 1984. The stadium is in place and ready for some $600 million in improvements, to be paid for not by taxpayers but by the University of Southern California.

Since 1984, moreover, new venues such as Staples Center have been built that make a 2024 version — with the IOC emphasis on sustainability — all the more attractive. And a new NFL stadium appears increasingly probable.

Some $40 billion in transit improvements, with a focus on light rail, are already underway in and around LA.

Political support for the Olympics, from Garcetti to the city council to the board of supervisors to state legislators to the governor, is rock solid.

Poll numbers are in the high 70s.

Ongoing right now in LA? The Special Olympics World Games. To enthusiastic support from the public and the city, which has committed $12 to $15 million in in-kind services. And from the likes of swimmer Michael Phelps, skater Michelle Kwan and diver Greg Louganis, among others.

And there is more, much more, in the city where an Olympics is just part of the fabric of life. Where 10th Street is Olympic Boulevard, because the X Olympiad was in 1932.

Doubtlessly, there will be questions and calls for review of the USOC process that led it to select Boston over LA in the first instance.

Poll numbers in Boston were always dismal — now in the 30s and 40s, with opposition at 50. The USOC cited lack of public support in making Monday’s move, saying it did “not think that the level of support enjoyed by Boston’s bid would allow it to prevail over great bids from Paris, Rome, Hamburg, Budapest or Toronto.”

Note, incidentally, no mention of Baku, Azerbaijan, also considering a 2024 bid after the first European Games there earlier this summer.

Walsh sought Monday to downplay local push-back to the Games: “The opposition for the most part is about 10 people on Twitter and a couple people out there who are constantly beating the drumbeat. This is about the taxpayers and what I have to do as mayor.”

The Boston bid was presented originally as a walkable, city-centered Games, with an emphasis on the many local universities. Then it morphed into a statewide thing, in an effort to win support for a referendum in November 2016 — a referendum that originally was not envisioned in any way.

As things unraveled, it became clear that Boston 2024 had been — from the start — an exercise in futility.

Bid 2.0 proposed a temporary stadium. For $1.376 billion (at least)? Just to tear it down?

Last Friday, it emerged that the original bid, in December, was short $471 million in proposed organizing committee revenues — but neither that gap nor the fact that additional revenues would be needed were mentioned in a January submission.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker was always lukewarm, at best, to the bid. He said in recent days he was waiting on a consultants’ report, due in August, to analyze whether Boston 2024 was financially viable — when he and the USOC knew the USOC needed his out-front support.

And then, ultimately, there was the mayor. Walsh, in Monday’s news conference:

“I cannot commit to putting the taxpayers at risk. If committing to sign a guarantee today is what’s required to move forward, then Boston is no longer pursuing the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”


Last October, the mayor sent Blackmun a letter saying, in part: “… in my capacity as the 54th Mayor of this great city I hereby confirm the ability of the City of Boston to sign the Host City Contract with the USOC, respect the Olympic Charter and re-affirm our previously stated support.”

The October letter signed by Mayor Walsh

The December bid submission to the USOC declared the city of Boston “will agree to the terms, without reservation,” of the host city contract. It also said it would agree to sign the contract “unedited,” adding the bid and the city “recognize the necessity in agreeing to sign the 2024 Host City Contract in the form to be provided by the IOC.”

Affirmations about the host city contract in Boston's December bid submission

In January, and again in February after a brouhaha about a non-disparagement clause, Walsh signed a joinder agreement on behalf of the city with the USOC. In that document, the city agreed — meaning it would be legally bound — to sign the host city contract.

See, in particular, Section 2.01: “The City shall execute and deliver the Host City Contract, the Joint Marketing Program Agreement and any other Candidature Documentation as the IOC shall require.” In legalese, just as in plain English, “shall” offers no wiggle room.

And yet, here, too, was Walsh on Monday before the cameras:

“I refuse to mortgage the future of the city away. This is a commitment that I can’t make without ensuring the city and its residents will be protected.”

The only real wonder Monday is why it took so long to wave bye-bye to all this.

But at long last, it’s done.

And, finally, it’s time to look ahead.

A tremendous next leap


BARCELONA -- The first-ever high-diving competition at a FINA world championship went down Monday and, yes, said Gary Hunt of Great Britain, one of the 14 divers who took part, there is absolutely an element of crazy involved in throwing yourself off a platform 88 feet high and twisting and spinning your way down for all of like, maybe, three seconds until you hit the water at about 50 miles per hour. "It seems crazy for anyone who hasn't tried it," he said, adding a moment later, "You are taking a risk. But it's a calculated risk."

Maybe this high-diving thing -- which might someday be in the Olympic Games -- is, in fact, crazy smart. Perhaps it's a great lesson in the way a savvy international sports federation moves. Quite possibly it offers a striking comparison: on the one hand, there's FINA's dynamism, and on the other, there's track and field's governing body, which goes by the acronym IAAF and in recent years has often seemed more static, the sport itself relentlessly plagued by doping scandals involving some of its biggest stars.

Track and field's most passionate adherents, including Lamine Diack of Senegal, the IAAF's longtime president, often say that the Summer Olympics begin for real only in the second week, when the action at Olympic Stadium, on the track and in the field, gets underway.

It is unequivocally the case that athletics, as it is known everywhere in the world but the United States, has global reach, and a passionately dedicated -- some might say exquisitely particular -- fan base.

That said, a typical night at the track is too often a carnival, unintelligible to the average spectator, with far too many events going on at the same time.

Meanwhile, aquatic sports -- along with gymnastics -- were this year, in the aftermath of the success of last year's London Games, elevated into the top rank of Olympic sports. Previously, track sat there alone, getting a special share of the hundreds of millions of dollars generated by television rights and other deals from each summer Games.

No more.

As for global reach, consider this line-up of countries from the third heat -- of eight -- in Sunday's men's 50-meter butterfly here at the Palau Sant Jordi: Northern Mariana Islands, Gambia, Tahiti, Guyana, Sri Lanka, Mozambique, Mali, Iraq, Pakistan, Tanzania.

The way a championship swim meet works is that the final few heats are the so-called "seeded" heats, with the expected winners. The early heats feature the qualifiers. The butterfly is without question the hardest of the strokes but, as the times in Heat 3 of 8 proved, this was no mere develoment display:

Christopher Clark of Tahiti finished first, in 25.81 seconds. Folarin Ogunsola of Gambia touched last, a more-than-respectable 2.69 seconds behind. Ameer Ali of war-torn Iraq placed sixth, in 27.06.

As these names and numbers show, swimming is doing something right.

What it's also doing right is playing smart politics -- especially in this, an IOC election year.

The IAAF should be surveying the scene and paying attention.

Track has no worries about its place on the Olympic program. But look, for instance, at what wrestling -- which is now fighting to stay in the Games -- is doing. It recently put on an exhibition, deliberately including female wrestlers, at ancient Olympia, in Greece. The message? Sport assuredly must be in touch with its roots, yes. But, and this is the critical part, it has to find new ways to remain ever-relevant.

Surely there are other creative sparks in track like those being shown by Sergei Bubka, the IAAF vice president and IOC presidential candidate, whose 28-page IOC election manifesto is punctuated with creative ideas. Then again, Bubka's mid-winter pole-vault event in Donetsk, Ukraine, is the model for how to take track and field forward -- it's one night, one event and it's a combination of the vaulting itself and whatever music the athletes want to jump to. You don't have to know the basics about pole vaulting to have fun watching it.

Same thing here Monday about high diving. You didn't have to know the intricacies of how you might actually yourself do a front double somersault with one-and-a-half twists to know you were watching the future.  Here were ripped bodies in the hot sun -- these 14 guys from nine nations -- flinging themselves off the platform, then crashing feet-first into the sea, then bubbling up to flash the OK sign. The scores came up to a thumping beat as palm trees swayed in the gentle Mediterranean breeze.

It was postcard-perfect.

"Anything that sticks out of line," away from vertical, "is going to hurt," said Orlando Duque, one of the 14, a Colombian who now spends most of his time in the Hawaiian islands. "If your face is sticking out, it's going to hurt."

Just getting up to the diving platform itself is a test of nerves. It's 120 steps. Learning how to dive from that height, Duque said, took him three full years.

Your lines have to be clean, just like in platform and springboard diving. That's what you get judged on.

Still, he said, the main thing is the rush.  It's like, he said, "when your dog sticks its head out of the window and is enjoying the wind."

Blake Aldridge was Tom Daley's partner in synchro diving at the 2008 Beijing Games; the British pair finished eighth. Now Aldridge is a high-diver. "It's massively different, mentally and visually," he said, adding, "If you get it wrong, there are no second chances."

This is, to be obvious, action sports for the water crowd. Indeed, at high-dive events there are scuba divers bobbing on the surface, just in case.

FINA is run by president Julio Maglione and executive director Cornel Marculescu. Want to know why, under their direction, swimming has moved into the Olympic top-tier?

At the medals ceremony here Sunday night, who appeared on stage to present the medals to the men's and women's 400-meter freestyle medalists? That would be one of the leading IOC presidential contenders, Thomas Bach of Germany, and none other than his ally, the IOC power broker Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah of Kuwait.

On Monday, who presented the medals to the men's 100 breaststroke winners? Singapore's Ser Miang Ng, another top IOC presidential contender.  To the women's 100 butterfly winners? Sir Craig Reedie of Great Britain, an IOC vice president, chairman of the 2020 Summer Games evaluation commission and presumed candidate for the World Anti-Doping Agency presidency.

To the winners of the women's 200-meter individual medley? Marius Vizer, the recently elected president of Sport Accord, the umbrella federation of the international sports federations. Vizer is also president of the International Judo Federation.

This is what's called being smart all around and covering your bases.

This, too:

In recent years, FINA has added open-water events. Here, it announced the addition of mixed relays.

Now, high-diving. "Hopefully, down the line we'll get into the Olympics," said Hunt, who leads the 2013 Red Bull cliff diving series after four events. Hunt has won the last three titles; Duque is the only other man to have won, in 2009.

What has track done to grow the sport? To remain fresh and current? To reach out -- in a concrete way -- to young people?

"The truth is that every year, every day, we are thinking to do something new," Maglione said at a weekend news conference.

Marculescu added a few moments later, "It's no secret today that we are living in a sport business environment. If you don't improve your product every day, or as soon as you can, the value disappears."

One of the jury members in Monday's men's high-diver preliminaries:  the man widely considered the greatest diver of all-time, Greg Louganis, the 1984 and 1988 platform and springboard champion. It's another smart play to get Louganis involved; he is an activist and his voice should be welcomed in the movement.

With Duque atop the leader board, the 14 men now move on to Wednesday's finals; preliminary scores carry over. The women's event, from 20 meters, or 66 feet, is set for Tuesday.

One of the six women who will dive Tuesday, Tara Tira, 27, of San Francisco, said, "It's a tremendous leap," literally and figuratively. She smiled at the inadvertent pun, then said, "It's really cool. It's really exciting for us. It's the next step."


David Boudia's history-making platform silver

SHANGHAI -- Any championship athlete knows that delivering peak performance is about achieving a state of calm excitement. That is, it's simply telling your body to do what you know it can do, because you've done it thousands of times before in practice. The trick is the "simply" part. If it really was so simple, everyone could do it. It's not, of course, and that's what separates champions from the rest of us. That's particularly the case in a sport such as diving, and all the more so in platform diving, where you throw your body into the air from a ledge 10 meters, or roughly 30 feet, up.

The moment of championship calm and grace that everyone knew David Boudia had in him finally arrived Saturday in Shanghai. He absolutely nailed the fifth of sixth dives in his program. That propelled him up the leader board, all the way up to second. But he didn't get all caught up in the moment. He thought, oh, good. Then he went out and hit his last dive, too.

David Boudia's silver turned out to be the first medal won by an American male in 25 years at the FINA world championships. No American had won on the 10-meter board since 1986, when Greg Louganis won gold and Bruce Kimball bronze.

China's Qui Bo won gold, with 585.45 points. Boudia finished with 544.25. Germany's Sascha Klein was third, with 534.5. American Nick McCrory finished sixth, with 501.65.

Louganis, in an e-mail, wrote that he had challenged Boudia last year to "leave the pack," adding, "he is now putting that belief in himself to do just that." Louganis also wrote that he was "so proud" and predicted Boudia would have "great opportunities ahead."

Overall, there were 10 gold medals up for grabs in the diving events here in Shanghai.

The Chinese won all 10.

Obviously, they dominate the sport.

Next year, at the London Olympics, they're going to win most of the medals. That's so predictable it's even now all but fact.

Nonetheless, there's opportunity. Intriguingly, the Chinese are worried. Witness this revealing comment Sunday in the English-language China Daily newspaper from Zhou Jihong, the Chinese dive team leader:

"I am really happy to achieve that sweep but I still feel worried. Our opponents have become stronger in technique. We have to toughen up mentally."

One of the reasons they are worried is that David Boudia won silver. That's legitimately fact, too.

The Americans haven't won an Olympic medal since Laura Wilkinson, on the platform in Sydney in 2000. Even so, they were in the hunt here in several disciplines -- but only Boudia, on the final day of the diving competition, broke through.

To see the arc of Boudia's career is to witness steady progression and maturity. It's not unexpected. He has been diving for a long time now. He's now 22 -- and, at Purdue, was named the 2011 Big Ten athlete of the year.

Got that, all you football studs? David Boudia is the Big Ten man of the year.

Boudia finished 23rd in 2007 on the platform at the 2007 world championships; in 2009, he finished sixth.

At the 2007 and 2009 worlds, respectively, he won bronze and silver in the synchronized 10-meter events. At the 2008 FINA World Cup, he won bronze.

He came to these 2011 worlds with his coach, Adam Soldati, mindful that the ability to compete at an occasion such as the world championships can be viewed one of two ways.

You can graft it with all kinds of artificial pressure.

Or -- both Soldati and Boudia are animated by a solid Christian faith -- you can view the worlds as a gift, a chance "to feel alive to feel awesome moments," as Soldati put it.

Soldati also likes to say that the point of diving is to hit it, not to miss it.

That fifth dive, a back 3 1/2 pike, earned Boudia 9.5s from all seven judges.

"Once the competition started," Boudia said, "I've never felt so relaxed in my entire life. Sitting with Adam, we were just joking around like we do in practice. We didn't make a big deal like this was the world championships or anything. I didn't make a big deal of anything. I took it one thing at a time. I didn't get ahead of myself. I didn't get caught up in the environment. It was cool.

"… After that fifth round, I was excited but immediately I hit that switch. I thought, I have one more dive. I thought, 'You hit that great dive but you have more to go. So let's go.' "

He followed up with a rock-steady back 2 1/2 with 2 1/2 twists. You dive to hit it, not miss it.

David Boudia has been on the international circuit since he was 15. These championships, he said, were the first when he had the perspective to look around  the pool deck and see how anxious so many of his other competitors could be, and for what?

"I could see how nervous they were. I could tell when they were diving if they were being cautious. When I was in competition, even in synchro, I could see how they were nervous. I was, like, why do you need to get so nervous? It was like an epiphany. After seven years of competition on the world stage, I controlled my body and it was -- it was like amazing."

Asked if he thought that bodes well for next year, he smiled a big smile, and said with an indisputable sense of calm excitement, "Absolutely."