Dan Walsh won a bronze medal in rowing at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, but his favorite Olympic moment happened in Boston. After returning from China, the Northeastern University graduate threw out the first pitch at Fenway Park, then let one awestruck fan after another share the glory by touching his hard-won prize.
“Now imagine that moment Commonwealthwide,” Walsh said Tuesday, asking the state Legislature’s Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development to back a feasibility study on bringing the Summer Games to Boston.
Walsh and other Olympians joined enthusiastic business and political leaders at the State House for a hearing on a Senate bill that would create a nine-member commission to examine Boston’s Olympic prospects and submit a report by Jan. 1. The bill does not estimate the cost of a feasibility study or propose a way to pay for it. The tourism committee took no action Tuesday.
Boston was one of 35 cities asked in February by the United States Olympic Committee to consider bidding for the Games of 2024. Seven cities — Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Dallas, Seattle, San Francisco, Tulsa, and San Diego — already have publicly expressed interest in Olympic bids.
Boston has not made an indication one way or the other, but there are signs of support, including the feasibility bill sponsored by Senator Eileen Donoghue, a Lowell Democrat.
The Globe reported in March that a private group called the Boston Olympic Exploratory Committee has been quietly soliciting support for a bid, meeting with city officials and local business leaders.
It is unclear how a commission formed by the bill would work with the existing exploratory committee, if at all.
But exploratory committee cochairman Eric Reddy made a detailed presentation at Tuesday’s hearing, offering to “do the heavy lifting” for a prospective commission. He said his group could raise enough money to pay for a feasibility study with private dollars.
Daniel O’Connell, chief executive of the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, testified that his group’s powerful members — senior executives at companies including Bank of America Corp., MassMutual Financial Group, and the Kraft Group — are prepared to be “significant sponsors” of a study.
Others who spoke in favor of the bill included Boston City Councilors Felix G. Arroyo and Matthew O’Malley, and Contemporary International president Stephen Mirabile, whose event planning and security firm has consulted on 10 other Olympic games. Despite last month’s bombings at the Boston Marathon, Mirabile said he is confident the city could stage a safe Olympics.
Tourism committee members raised several concerns about the bill to study a Boston bid. Representative Denise Andrews, a Democrat from Orange, said she believed it would be important for women and minorities to be part of the planning process from day one and called on O’Connell to lead efforts to involve businesses owned by women and minorities.
Donoghue’s bill does not include demographic guidelines for a prospective commission to study an Olympic bid.
“If we’re sitting at a bill hearing on the floor in the House, you can bet I will amend the bill, if it is not to standard,” Andrews said.
Representative Chris Walsh, a Framingham Democrat, and Representative William Pignatelli, a Lenox Democrat, said they worried that regions beyond Greater Boston might be left out of bid planning. The bill does direct a prospective feasibility commission to study locations outside Greater Boston, and even in neighboring states, as possible venues.
Multiple speakers noted that in other recent Olympics, some events have been held several hours away from the host city.
“It is definitely our assumption that this bill would [include] the Berkshires all the way to Provincetown,” Reddy said.Callum Borchers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @callumborchers.