The possibility of Boston earning the right to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, in the wake of a recent overture from the US Olympic Committee, has garnered more attention than is necessary at this stage of what will be a long selection process. The requirements to host the games are daunting, and the final decision will be made by the International Olympic Committee, which hasn’t been particularly kind to US cities in recent selections. But it would also be premature for Boston’s leaders to reject the USOC’s invitation before making a serious assessment of feasibility or cost. A chance to host the Olympics is unique and too rare to pass up without further consideration.
Civic, sports, and business leaders have already approached the mayor about their interest; a private group has been formed to help decide whether the city could or should assume the transportation and infrastructure commitments of hosting an Olympics. The initial go-ahead will have to come from the mayor, but the USOC also asks that other local leaders be willing to support the effort, which would include mayors and city managers from surrounding cities, and the governor of Massachusetts.
The best course would be for Mayor Menino to make a tentative commitment to the exploratory committee, thereby allowing it to begin assessing potential costs, the availablility of public support, and the extent of corporate buy-in. This effort can be steered by the mayor’s office, but paid for by private support.
As of now, there is a dearth of information about what the city would have to do even to be considered as a potential host by the USOC. But there is every reason to believe that Boston would be viewed as a solid contender. Despite the likelihood that some new facilities would have to be built, the city and state come ready with expandable infrastructure, human capital, and financial stability. Boston’s colleges and universities already welcome the world and could house many of the athletes and visitors during the summer months. In addition, it is quite common for Olympic events to take place at facilities well outside the host city; Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Olympics included downhill skiing at a resort nearly two hours from the city center. So appealing venues in areas outside of Boston, such as Foxborough or even Amherst, would be well within the suitable proximity.
The United States has not won a bid for the Summer Olympics since the 1996 games in Atlanta, which were granted 30 years ago. The US Olympic Committee is understandably eager to bring the games home again. For Menino to endorse the exploratory committee’s work now wouldn’t commit the city to anything at all. Later, if either the mayor or the committee decide it’s no longer worth the effort, the decision will have been based on an objective assessment that the entire public can feel was performed with care.