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Walsh pushes back against USOC pressure

Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

Mayor Martin Walsh said Monday he will not sign a host city contract until he knows more about the financial picture of the 2024 Olympic games.

By and Globe Staff 

Just hours before officials said Boston’s bid for the 2024 Olympics was over, Mayor Martin J. Walsh said he was not ready to sign an Olympic host city contract that would make taxpayers the final source for Olympic cost overruns.

At a hastily called City Hall press conference, Walsh said the USOC was pushing him to sign a host city contract soon. But he said he would not sign until he knows more about the financial picture of the proposed Games.

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“I cannot commit to putting the taxpayers at risk,’’ Walsh said at the press conference. “If committing to sign a guarantee today is what’s required to move forward, then Boston is no longer pursuing the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

Just a few hours later, two officials close to Olympic discussions said there would be no Boston 2024.

“It’s over,” said one official with knowledge of the decision.

Shortly after, Walsh released his own statement.

“I strongly believe that bringing the Olympic Games back to the United States would be good for our country and would have brought long-term benefits to Boston. However, no benefit is so great that it is worth handing over the financial future of our City and our citizens were rightly hesitant to be supportive as a result,” said Walsh in the written statement.

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The standoff between Walsh and the USOC added to the turmoil that surrounded the bid, which was already in peril due to low poll numbers.

The mood was grim at City Hall on Monday before the end to the Olympic bid was announced, with the mayor expressing resignation and frustration.

“I think it’s unfortunate that it’s come to this point,” Walsh said.

Before the press conference, Walsh said he spoke to Governor Charlie Baker and Scott Blackmun, the USOC’s chief executive officer.

Also Monday, Baker spoke to USOC officials, according to an aide, and reiterated that he will not take any position on Boston’s Olympic bid until a consulting firm hired by the state issues a report next month on the bid’s finances.

“We always anticipated having the time to do our due diligence on the guarantees required and a full review of the risk and mitigation package proposed last week,” said Walsh in his Monday statement. “This is a monumental decision that cannot be rushed, even if it means not moving forward with our bid for the 2024 Summer Games.”

USOC members had planned to discuss Boston’s status at a board meeting Monday. At the morning news conference, Walsh thanked bid organizers for the hard work they’d put in so far.

Walsh said he would not yield to pressure from the USOC to put taxpayers on the hook to guarantee the 2024 Olympic Games take place in Boston.

“I refuse to mortgage the future of the city away,’’ he said. “This is a commitment that I can’t make without ensuring the city and its residents will be protected.”

Walsh said he would not have any regrets if the city does not host the Olympics, in part because it has spurred a conversation that led to the creation of plans to redevelop Widett Circle and expand housing options in Dorchester’s Columbia Point neighborhood.

Walsh said that the city was facing an International Olympic Committee deadline of submitting a signed host city agreement by this September but the IOC won’t choose a host city until 2017.

“This is a big decision and I think you need to have the time to process it,’’ Walsh said.

Walsh said Baker supported his views when the two spoke.

Asked about opposition to the 2024 Games, Walsh showed a hint of frustration.

“The opposition for the most part is about 10 people on Twitter and a couple people out there who are constantly beating the drumbeat,” Walsh said. “This is about the taxpayers and what I have to do as mayor.”

The comment immediately elicited several follow-up questions from reporters, who pointed to Boston 2024’s sagging poll numbers.

“I don’t view the 40 to 50 percent who aren’t for the Olympics today” as the opposition, Walsh said. “I view the 10 people who are doing hundreds of thousands of tweets on Twitter.”

Walsh continued, “As you go out and talk about the Olympic potential, there is still some interest out there. People still are opposed, but there’s been a little movement in the last few days.

“The opposition in the polls, I don’t think it’s strong opposition,” Walsh said. “I think it’s concerned opposition. I think one of the main concerns is taxpayer dollars going into the Olympics, and that’s what we’re addressing here today.”


John R Ellement, Joshua Miller, and Andy Rosen of the Globe staff contributed to this report Mark Arsenault can be reached at marsenault@globe.com
Follow him on Twitter @bostonglobemark.
Andrew Ryan can be reached at acryan@globe.com
Follow him on Twitter @globeandrewryan.