An effort to bring the Olympics to Boston is getting an enthusiastic response from business and government leaders in the region north of the would-be host city. One local lawmaker sees the 2024 Summer Games as a potential boon to tourism throughout Massachusetts and wants a state study to see if a bid — something of a long shot — is worth pursuing.
“It would be a tremendous opportunity to highlight the Boston region and the North Shore, the South Shore, the western suburbs, and even beyond into New England,” said Robert G. Bradford, president of the North Shore Chamber of Commerce. “It would have a very positive economic impact on our region.”
Malden Mayor Gary Christenson also likes the idea. “I think anything to create an amenity that would draw people not only from all over the state and country but also the world is something I think is needed for our state,” he said.
The United States Olympic Committee has contacted Boston and 34 other municipalities to gauge their interest in hosting the 2024 Summer Olympics. A private group, the Boston Olympic Exploratory Committee, is trying to build support for a Boston bid.
State Senator Eileen Donoghue, a Lowell Democrat, has sponsored a bill to create a special commission to explore the issues involved in an Olympic bid. The bill was the subject of a hearing on May 7 before the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development.
Donoghue said her interest in a possible bid for the Summer Games grew from her term as chairwoman of the panel. “I came to understand in more depth how important tourism is to Massachusetts, to our economy,” she said, noting it is the state’s third-largest industry.
“When you look at the tourism aspects of the Olympics not just during the weeks of the games but before and well after the games, it certainly would bring a huge benefit,” Donoghue said. “And certainly New England and Boston is a huge sports mecca.”
From her own research, Donoghue said she was encouraged by London’s positive experience when it hosted the 2012 Summer Olympics. She said in preparation for the games, for instance, the city made long-term upgrades to its transportation and other infrastructure. Londoners “feel very strongly that there were huge benefits beyond the games,” she said.
Donoghue said the benefits of Boston hosting the games could extend far beyond the city, including to her district. She said, for example, that sites in Greater Lowell, such as the Tsongas Center, could potentially serve as venues for Olympic events.
She said for the Boston region, and even New England in general, the Olympics would also offer a chance “to highlight on an international level so many of our attractions.”
Before moving forward with a bid, Donoghue said, a feasibility study is needed to examine all the issues and potential costs involved in being a host city.
The study is expected to cost $2 million to $3 million, with the intent that it be privately funded, according to Donoghue’s office. The cost of making a bid could range from $6 million to $10 million, and under International Olympic Committee rules, it has to be privately financed.
Donoghue said the Boston Marathon bombings did not change her mind about pursuing the idea.
“Those tragic events certainly resonate with all of us and will for a lifetime,” she said. “But the response by Boston, the cooperative spirit of ‘Boston Strong,’ shows how extraordinarily not only the city but the Commonwealth worked together in response to the tragic events. It demonstrated to the world what a first-class city and state we have, and that we’re fortunate to have the leadership we have in the public safety area.”
‘It would be a tremendous opportunity to highlight the Boston region and the North Shore, the South Shore, the western suburbs, and even beyond into New England.’
Donoghue noted that London officials had similar safety concerns in preparing for the 2012 Olympics. “They were determined to have the utmost security and they did, and the [games] were successfully completed without any type of problem. So I’m confident Boston and Massachusetts are up to the challenge.”
Deborah Belanger, executive director of the Greater Merrimack Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau, finds the idea of the Olympics coming to the Boston area exciting, and she welcomes a study.
She said her own experience helping organize the 2006 World Men’s Curling Championship in Lowell showed her the positive impact even an event of that smaller size can have for a host region. “It brought [people from] 145 different countries to Lowell, and they were here 10 days,” she said, estimating the event brought $4 million to the local economy.
Gary Barrett, executive director of the North Shore Alliance for Economic Development, said there is natural interest in an Olympic bid in the area’s business community, “particularly when one considers the tourism industry is one of the main business sectors on the North Shore and the Olympics hosts people from around the world.
“I would expect the North Shore would be a target of a lot of those visitors to Massachusetts with the cultural gems we have, the natural seashore, and the other resources here,” he said.
State Representative John D. Keenan, a Salem Democrat who previously served as House chairman of the tourism committee, also supports exploring an Olympic bid, though he said he is not sure a commission is needed.
“I’d be thrilled to have it come to Boston, because it would mean a tremendous amount of business for Salem as well as Cape Cod and everywhere else people might go to do day trips,” he said.
Leslie Gould, president and chief executive of the Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce, can see similar benefits.
“I would think it would only be a positive not only for Boston but for every surrounding community, and quite frankly some of the Northeast states,” she said. Olympic visitors “might make it a Northeastern destination vacation.”
Mayors Michael J. McGlynn of Medford and Daniel Rizzo of Revere are also supportive.
“As the brother of a 1972 US hockey team Olympian, I can assure you it excites everyone,” said McGlynn, whose brother Richard, was on the US team that won a silver medal.
The mayor said he envisions that communities north of Boston would provide some of the venues for Olympic events, and if so would also benefit from funds spent to build or rehabilitate the facilities.
Rizzo said through a spokesman that hosting the Olympics “would be a great way to highlight Boston and the surrounding communities, all we have to offer on the East Coast.”
Chelsea City Manager Jay Ash has some concerns about an Olympic bid, but he favors a study.
“There have been many communities that have competed hard and been successful, only to lose money and regret the decision they’d made,” he said of Olympic hosts. “So while we have a great venue and we are used to hosting millions of tourists every year, I think a study is very appropriate to determine the costs and whether they would outweigh the benefits.”John Laidler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.