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dan shaughnessy

Not hosting the 2024 Summer Olympics is the best thing that never happened to Boston

Governor Charlie Baker (at the podium) and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh (right) at a press conference in January 2015, after Boston was picked by the USOC as its bid city for the 2024 Summer Games.Winslow Townson

Billionaire Charles Dolan almost bought the Red Sox in 2001. We have seen what he and his family have done to the Knicks. We dodged a big bullet there.

Bob Kraft almost moved the Patriots to Hartford in 1998. Kraft announced that it was a done deal. Fortunately, it was only a threat, and the Patriots never left Foxborough.

The list goes on. The Red Sox almost traded for Alex Rodriguez in the winter of 2003-04. The Celtics almost re-signed Kyrie Irving three years ago.

Oh, and back in 2015, Boston actually made a bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics. Seven months after the US Olympic Committee designated Boston as the American city best equipped to bid for the Games, we withdrew our application. The 2024 Games will take place in Paris.

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It’s the best thing that never happened to our city.

In theory, the Olympics are great. After all, who wouldn’t want to be home to an international event celebrating “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (Faster, Higher, Stronger)?

Rooted in ancient Greece 3,000 years ago, the seven Olympic values are friendship, excellence, respect, courage, determination, inspiration, and equality.

Unfortunately, these ideals have been compromised. In 2022, the Olympics’ core values present as greed, corruption, censure, gluttony, commercialism, cheating, and apathy. Seven deadly sins. The seven dwarfs of the modern Games.

The 2022 Beijing Winter Games have not been without great moments for American athletes. It’s easy to appreciate figure skater Nathan Chen’s individual gold, and Erin Jackson’s speedskating gold was a breakthrough. Lindsey Jacobellis’s 16-year wait for gold was compelling, as was Shaun White’s farewell tour. We were all rooting for the American women’s hockey team to beat Canada, and there no doubt will be more great moments before it’s over.

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But the takeaway from these Games is not good, and it makes me feel relieved that we are not knee-deep in plans for 2024 Summer Games here in the Hub of the Universe.

Want to hear some of the early plans for Boston 2024? They were going to have beach volleyball on Boston Common, which would have meant cutting down ancient oak trees on the sacred grounds. They were going to build a disposable Olympic Stadium at Widett Circle. Taxpayers in Brookline informed the committee that The Country Club would not be available for Olympic golf. The committee pitched Boston as a “walking Olympics,” then informed us that the sailing competition would be held in New Bedford and the rowing in Lowell.

A rendering of the proposed Olympic Stadium at Widett Circle.Boston 2024

Boston 2024 would have been a disaster. We didn’t have the money. We didn’t have the venues. We’ll never have the Olympic spirit of volunteerism. The ongoing two-year pandemic firmly establishes that we have no appetite for the cost, traffic, and inconvenience that would come with a Summer Games.

I reached out to local construction titan John Fish, who headed the original 11-member exploratory committee for Boston 2024. Does he still wish we landed the bid, or does he agree we dodged a bullet?

“I would say we could have gone about the process differently, but I do think it would have been a tremendous opportunity for the city of Boston and its future,” said Fish. “Boston is a great city, and at the end of the day, if we did have that opportunity, we would have shown extremely well to the world.

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“One could say we dodged a bullet, others could say it was a lost opportunity.”

The Beijing Olympics, meanwhile, are a big bowl of bad, unfolding in a country ruled by fear and oppression. American athletes were advised to bring burner phones to China as a defense against government cyber-hacking. COVID suffocation stripped the Games of fans, joy, and spontaneity. Press conferences have been a comical and frightening demonstration of local rule by intimidation; foreign journalists are stonewalled when asking about cheating scandals, while the local reporters lob softballs about favorite foods and the greatness of the event.

Beijing’s fake snow is a perfect metaphor for an event that feels increasingly large on spectacle and short on substance.

The saga of Kamila Valieva has come to define the Beijing Olympics for many.Matthew Stockman/Getty Images via Bloomberg

The saga of 15-year-old Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva is destined to last as the signature story of Beijing 2022. After the young superstar led the Russians to team gold last week, it was learned that she had tested positive for a drug that can enhance performance almost two months ago.

In the wake of this discovery, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that she would still be allowed to compete for individual gold. Valieva delivered a first-place short performance Tuesday and is favored to finish first Thursday.

What a farce. Even though she has been caught cheating (and we will allow that she may be an innocent pawn in the Russian federation), Valieva is allowed to compete, while the International Olympic Committee ruled that there will be no medal ceremony if she wins.

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Thus, the entire women’s skating competition — always a big seller for television — has become an insult to the clean athletes of the world. It’s the kind of stain we’ve come to expect from the IOC, an organization that was once run by Avery Brundage, who played ball with the Nazis, and Franco minister Juan Antonio Samaranch.

One would think that watching the Olympics would be a nice diversion as the pandemic lingers, but no. NBC’s ratings are in the dumpster, and there’s little buzz about the competitions. These Games are more sad than special.

Paris is on deck to host the Summer Games in 2024. Better them than us.


Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at daniel.shaughnessy@globe.com. Follow him @dan_shaughnessy.