Simmering tension between Boston and the Olympics leadership boiled over into the public Wednesday, with International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach accusing the city of “confusing” behavior in its 2024 host city bid, and Mayor Martin J. Walsh tartly responding that if there was any confusion, it was on the part of Olympics officials.
The exchange began Wednesday morning with Bach — speaking from the IOC meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia — saying Boston reneged on the obligations it agreed to in January when the US Olympic Committee chose Boston — over Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington — as the official US nominee to host the 2024 Summer Games.
“It was pretty confusing,” Bach said at a press conference at the meeting, where the IOC on Friday will choose the site for the 2022 Winter Games. “Every day there was a new project coming from Boston or new people and new ideas. I really gave up following it in detail. But what we could see in a nutshell what happened there is that Boston did not deliver on promises they made to the USOC when they were selected.”
Walsh was having none of it.
“In Boston we don’t get forced into putting taxpayers’ money at risk, and if that is confusing to the IOC president, it shows exactly why they are in the situation they are in [without a US bid city],” the mayor said in a statement.
The committee and the partnership mutually agreed Monday to terminate the bid after Walsh said at a press conference the city would not agree — as is customarily required — to underwrite Games-associated deficits that frequently run into the billions of dollars, usually for venue construction.
USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun declined to comment on Bach’s remarks, a committee spokesman said.
Steve Pagliuca, who took over the chairmanship of Boston 2024 in May, also did not directly address Bach’s comments, although he did say in a statement that the Boston 2024 team is “committed to help any USA cities that are potential candidates to bring back the games. Our detailed budget modeling and risk management programs can give another city a head start on developing a compelling bid.”
Although Walsh would not have had to sign the formal host city contract with the IOC until Boston was chosen at the committee’s session in September 2017, the city would have had to include a financial guarantee letter when it submitted its applicant file in January.
But pressed to commit this week that Boston would cover any cost overruns, Walsh refused. “I will not sign a document that puts one dollar of taxpayers’ money on the line for one penny of overruns on the Olympics,” the mayor said, adding that he would “refuse to mortgage the future of the city away.”
Bach said that despite the false start, the IOC still expects an American candidate to join the competition with the announced contenders — Paris, Rome, Hamburg, and Budapest — by the mid-September deadline for applicant cities.
“We are not concerned at all,” said Bach, noting that there are other US cities capable of hosting the Games. He added that the United States is one of the few countries with the luxury of having a number of cities capable of organizing the Games.
“We had a commitment from the USOC for an Olympic candidature for 2024. We have this commitment,” said Bach. “We’re sure that USOC will deliver on this commitment and that we will have on the 15th of September a bid from the United States.”
That bid almost certainly would come from Los Angeles, which was the original 2024 domestic favorite and was mentioned frequently as the committee’s fallback option should Boston’s quest be derailed. “I would be happy to engage in discussions with the USOC about how to present the strongest and most fiscally responsible bid on behalf of our city and nation,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said Monday, adding that Los Angeles, which hosted in 1932 and 1984, was an “ideal Olympic city.”
While Garcetti didn’t promise to sign the same host city contract that his Boston counterpart would not, people within the Olympics operation have said privately that Garcetti has already committed to that requirement as part of the joinder agreement the four mayors affirmed as a condition of being considered in the initial round of competition.
Los Angeles refused to sign the host city contract after being named the 1984 site as the only contender in the wake of the 1976 Games that left Montreal with a debt that took decades to pay. The USOC and the local organizing committee then agreed to jointly assume the risk of staging the Games and ended up sharing the $232 million surplus.
While Los Angeles had more of the essential venues in place than the other American candidates, there was concern the IOC would be reluctant to return there for a third time even though it had done so with London for 2012, and would again with Paris if it is chosen for the 2024 Games. Paris is seen as the early favorite.
Boston, which never before had bid for the Games, was viewed as an appealing novelty, a historic and compact city whose intimacy and walkability made it a summer version of Lillehammer, the charming Norwegian town that staged the 1994 Winter Games.
Yet steady and significant public opposition and the mayor’s reversal convinced the USOC the Boston candidacy was doomed, and it needed to be terminated so the committee could nominate another contender, which it said would happen next month.
“It is now an internal issue for USOC to determine the most appropriate city,” said Bach, who said he hoped the discussion would be “a little more oriented on facts than emotions.”
“It is not up to the IOC to give unsolicited advice on this,” said Bach. “I’m sure that USOC will find the best solution.”
firstname.lastname@example.org. Andrew Ryan and Mark Arsenault of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Material from wire services was used in this report.