New Bedford picked as sailing site in new Olympic venue plan

A skate boarder on the walking path at Fort Taber Park in New Bedford..
Barry Chin/Globe Staff
A skate boarder on the walking path at Fort Taber Park in New Bedford.

NEW BEDFORD — The local Olympic bid committee, Boston 2024, on Thursday broadened the footprint of its Olympic plan, proposing Buzzards Bay and a New Bedford park as the venue for Olympic sailing events, should Boston be chosen to host the 2024 Summer Games.

It is the first Olympic sports site to be announced under Boston 2024’s new venue plan. The committee had originally proposed in January that sailing be held in Boston Harbor.

The new sailing venue presented well at a news conference Thursday at the waterfront park at Fort Taber: relentless wind whipped flags and neckties, while sailboats zigzagged in the background.


Spreading events to welcoming cities outside Boston could increase statewide support for the Games, but could also be seen as a departure from the bid committee’s original focus on creating the most “walkable” Games in history. Though the majority of events are expected to stay in Greater Boston, Boston 2024 chief executive Richard Davey suggested the bid committee would be making “more news” outside the city as the new venue plan is rolled out throughout June.

Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
Forget yesterday's news. Get what you need today in this early-morning email.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Mayor Jon Mitchell said Thursday that “the idea of New Bedford hosting the sailing competition . . . fits right in with who we are as a city.” He recited New Bedford’s maritime history as a whaling city, as home to a commercial fishing fleet and as a cargo port. “This is the ultimate city by the sea.” With an Olympic venue, he said, “thousands of people will come here and spend money and time in our city,” he said.

No city tax money would be spent on capital projects related to hosting the sailing races, Mitchell said, but the city would provide in-kind services, such as traffic control, as it does for other community events. He said the Games would have no effect on commercial fishing vessels.

Plans call for temporary viewing stands to be erected on the park’s shoreline to hold about 10,000 spectators. Boston 2024 estimated the venue costs at $21 million to $25 million, which the committee would fund through its operating budget. Money for Olympic operating budgets comes primarily from broadcast fees, ticket sales, and corporate sponsorships.

An Olympic opposition group, No Boston Olympics, said Thursday’s announcement did not address a larger question about Olympic financing.


“Boston 2024 can tell you the date of its opening ceremonies and the location of venues, but still can’t answer basic questions about how taxpayers will be protected from the cost overruns that have afflicted every Olympic city since 1960,” the group said in a statement.

The bid committee had pledged to release a new Olympic venue plan in full by the end of the month, including a more detailed budget for the Games.

The Buzzards Bay sailing venue would host 10 Olympic events over 13 days, if Boston is named the host city, as well as three events for the Paralympic Games over six days, according to Boston 2024.

UMass Dartmouth chancellor Divina Grossman said her campus is committed to providing housing for the roughly 380 athletes who would participate in Olympic sailing.

Jack Gierhart, executive director of US Sailing, said in a statement that the waters of Buzzards Bay “provide some of the finest sailing conditions in the world and will deliver fantastic competition.”


The bay’s wind “is amazing,” said Andy Herlihy, director of the Community Boating Center in New Bedford and a competitor in the US Olympic trials in 2000. He said the water temperature in the summer is mild, making it comfortable for the sailors, and that the venue would also provide spectators with an unusually close-up view of the competition.

While Boston 2024 will be adjusting some of its venues due to public opposition to its original proposal, Davey said there was no significant problem with sailing in Boston Harbor. He said Mitchell and members of the New Bedford-area sailing community had simply made a compelling case that Buzzards Bay was the better spot.

Should Boston be named host for the Games, elite sailors from around the world will come to New Bedford in the years before 2024, to get familiar with the bay and practice for the Games, Davey said.

New Bedford resident Don Catrambone, 59, who on Thursday watched boats through binoculars from a park bench at Fort Taber, said he would look forward to watching Olympics races. “It would be a great attraction,” he said. “I think the people here would be proud.””

The International Olympic Committee will choose the 2024 host in 2017. Rome, Hamburg, Paris and Budapest are expected to compete for the Games.

Boston 2024 has called for a 2016 state referendum on the bid.

Mark Arsenault can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @bostonglobemark