Boston doesn’t want your stinking Olympics, should any city?

I’m sure you all caught this already, but Boston’s 2024 Olympic bid imploded spectacularly on Monday, with Mayor Marty Walsh declaring that he wouldn’t let the USOC rush him into signing a guarantee to cover cost overruns, and the USOC promptly declaring that it was withdrawing Boston as its chosen bid candidate.

It was all very sudden, but, as I wrote at Vice Sports yesterday, not entirely unexpected given how poorly the bid was going so far:

All the talk about ballooning costs not only worried Boston residents — who were mostly opposed to hosting the Olympics from the start — but garnered opposition from more than a few local elected officials, the sort who typically fall into line once there’s sports to be chased. Boston city councilor Tito Jackson had already announced he planned to subpoena Boston 2024 for more financial details; Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, meanwhile, hired economists Brad Humphreys and Allen Sanderson — both notedskeptics about the benefits of sports construction — to put together that report on whether the Boston bid numbers made a damn bit of sense. (One hopes we’ll still get to see it, as it would be fun reading, though the governor may end up deciding that would be rubbing salt in Boston 2024’s wounds.) Walsh, in all likelihood, merely put the final nail in the coffin with yesterday’s announcement, though he certainly did it with gusto.

The question now is whether the USOC will put forward a candidate at all for 2024 — the deadline is September 15, which doesn’t leave much time to revive a candidate from the ashes, though they’ve already put in a call to Los Angeles — and whether we’re entering a new era of cities steering clear of the Olympics as a nightmarish money suck, after most of the 2022 Winter Games candidates withdrew for that reason. Writing in the Guardian, Les Carpenter suggests that that would be an excellent idea:

The internet is clogged with slide shows of empty, broken, useless stadiums built in the euphoria of a coming Olympics or World Cup then abandoned soon after, allowed to fill with weeds, rodents and other signs of human escape. Is there a better sign of Greece’s collapse than a pile of useless sports facilities crumbling since the torch went out in the summer of 2004? What use did Athens have for a baseball stadium anyway? It’s crumbling among the weeds just like the field hockey venue, the canoeing center and the training pool green with algae…

After Rome, Paris, Hamburg and maybe Toronto or Doha – all fighting to host the 2024 Games – the list of Olympic hopefuls may quickly dwindle until only bidders will be places like Beijing or Qatar or breakaway Soviet republic. These are places that won’t need to worry about local opposition when writing checks in the name of national pride. The concept of getting one big city to compete against another, with each promising more extravagance is probably an old one.

Of course, that’s still plenty of cities to keep the Olympics in business, though at some point the IOC may have to reduce its lavish demands a tad if it finds no takers. (Or gets tired of holding all its Olympics in China.) After all, the last time cities started bailing on the Olympics, after the financial disaster of the 1976 Montreal games, Los Angeles ended up the host by default, despite a plan that built no sparkly new facilities at all. We’re not there yet by any means, but the 2026 and 2028 bid processes are going to be real interesting.


6 comments on “Boston doesn’t want your stinking Olympics, should any city?

  1. I don’t know if it matters really, as long as sponsors keep paying in, and as long as China is interested, there’s a large enough potential market for sponsors to want to sign up. This is the same difficulty with FIFA; as long as sponsors continue to lavish large sums of money in order to catch eyeballs in developing and middle-income markets I don’t think there is going to be substantive change. And considering many of these countries governments are non-transparent and autocratic, it is no surprise that they keep propping themselves up with these circus like events.

  2. We still have the stadium (slightly modified) here in Atlanta from the 1996 Olympics. With the Braves leaving, the time is right for us to tear down the old Olympic Stadium/Turner Field and build a duplicate in its place for 2024. Funded of course by a $10 tax on passing through the airport since we’ve already tapped the various other ways of screwing visitors into paying for our stadium fetish. No doubt the mayor is already rushing to Lausanne.

  3. It only makes sense for cities who already have a lot of pre-existing venues. LA with 6 pro teams, 2 college football power houses, and an iconic college basketball program probably doesn’t have to build a whole lot. There are usually housing and infrastructure requirements but more often then not that stuff is things cities need to do anyway. Like Vancouver broke even on its games but that including building a highway that they already needed. Toronto is considering jumping in for 2024, since they already built a bunch of things for the Pan Am games. They would have to build a lot of housing (which they need) and upgrade transit (which they need) so it won’t be the horrible for them to do it.

  4. The housing portion always befuddles me. While I understand the need for X amount of hotel rooms, the need to build a special “Olympic Village” always strikes me as ridiculous, considering how unlikely it is that those facilities will be used again as either a hotel or a hostel. I did stay once for a summer at the 64 Tokyo Olympic Village apartments (which are TINY by the way), but I don’t often hear of other Olympic villages being reused.

  5. A friend of mine had his Georgia Tech dorm room used as an Olympic village. He always complained that the Iranian handball team or somesuch broke his air conditioner.