Boston is catching Olympics fever, all right. The mere thought is making citizens and pundits break out in a sweat and sending shivers down their spines.
To which I ask: When did Boston become a city of so many cynics?
Yes, I will be the first to admit it sounds like a harebrained idea for our little old city to host such a big, shiny event. If we think it’s tough getting around Boston now, wait until the rest of the world shows up. We don’t even have enough places for our college students to live, let alone house thousands of athletes.
And if we have to build our way into the 2024 Summer Olympics — new roads, a bigger T, athletes’ villages, and stadiums — can we do it on time and on budget? Just about here I’m supposed to cue up the chorus of naysayers bellowing: Remember the Big Dig!
OK, I got all the negativity out there. Can we move on? What’s worse than thinking we can’t do something is drowning out the voices of people who believe we can.
Suffolk Construction chief executive John Fish is not all by himself in thinking we have a shot at this — the United States Olympics Committee has included Boston on its short list of host cities for the 2024 games.
So before we completely embarrass Boston on the world stage with a parochial view of ourselves and the city, let’s get some perspective.
A few months ago, I met with Pedro Heilbron, chief executive of Copa Airlines, which started nonstop flights from Boston to Panama last year. I asked what he thought about Boston hosting the Olympics.
With a straight face, he said the city would be a wonderful place for the games because we have great infrastructure. What we consider crumbling, he thinks of as highly functional, having come from Latin America, where roads, subways, and nearby airports can be a luxury.
I got the sense he was thinking this: If Rio de Janeiro can get the nod, if some Russian city no one has heard of can pull it off, why can’t Boston?
We already have investors from all over the world who are confident about our future and are pouring billions into Boston real estate. And with so many people running around here clutching degrees from Harvard and MIT, someone is smart enough to help us hold a better Olympics.
It’s too early to say whether we can really do this, but we should be allowed to dream. In the months ahead, there’s much work to be done in figuring what we need to do and how we’re going to pay for it.
An Olympic bid is going to cost us dearly in time and resources — but that shouldn’t stop us from seizing the opportunity to think big about ourselves.
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