Hindsight is 2024: Boston to Hold Public Referendum on Fate of Olympic Bid

John Fish, the chair of Boston 2024, the nonprofit group organizing that city’s bid for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games, announced yesterday at a breakfast meeting of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce that they would be seeking a statewide referendum in November 2016 to allow the public to weigh in on the group’s bid. He also said voters in the city of Boston would have to give their approval of the group’s continued efforts.

It wasn’t all that long after U.S. Olympic Committee’s January 8th announcement that it had selected the city of Boston as its entrant to the bidding to host the 2024 Summer Olympic Games that people began to talk about a referendum. The day after the USOC announcement, Boston mayor Marty Walsh had denounced the idea of putting the city’s bid up for voting, but in a January 20 interview with the Wall Street Journal, he reversed that position, saying he “wouldn’t oppose” voters’ efforts to seek a public referendum.

Early opposition to the project came from noted sports economist Andrew Zimbalist, the Robert A. Woods Professor of Economics at Smith College, who penned an article in The Daily Beast laying out the reasons why it would be bad news, financially, for the city.

Since then, public support for the city’s bid has dwindled. In March, a WBUR poll showed only 36% of registered voters living in Boston supported the project, down from 51% in January.

One of Boston 2024’s main detractors has been the group No Boston Olympics. They, along with others, have questioned the organizing committee’s claims that no public funds would be used to run the Games. In addition, disclosures about a plum consulting agreement with former governor Deval Patrick and elevated salaries for Boston 2024 committee members have contributed to declining enthusiasm for the project.

No Boston Olympics co-chair Chris Dempsey, who has been lobbying for a public vote since January, is hoping to work with Boston 2024 on the referendum’s wording.

As Zimbalist pointed out in his Daily Beast article, voters in Denver turned down their city’s bid in a referendum after they had already been awarded the 1976 Winter Games, leaving the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in the difficult position of having to find a new host city.

The USOC has until September 2015 to submit its bid to the IOC, which isn’t expected to choose a host city for the 2024 Summer Games until 2017.

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About Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant

Anne Lepesant is the mother of four daughters, all of whom swim/swam in college. With an undergraduate degree from Princeton (where she was an all-Ivy tennis player) and an MBA from INSEAD, she worked for many years in the financial industry, both in France and the U.S. Anne is currently …

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