fb-pixel Skip to main content
Shirley Leung

Instead of saying no, let’s try being open to Olympics possibility

They said we couldn’t clean up Boston Harbor. They said we couldn’t take down the Central Artery and build a third tunnel. They said we couldn’t host a Democratic National Convention.

They said we couldn’t win the World Series.

Actually, “they” was largely “we.”

Where would we be if we listened to our naysaying selves?

Now the US Olympic Committee believes that we can host the 2024 Summer Games and represent the United States in a worldwide competition. To get there, we bested bids from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington. We did it with a smart proposal: a walkable, sustainable Olympics.


Our nomination signals that someone believes we can hold our own against — and even beat — Paris, Rome, Berlin, and any other rival bidder. We can allow ourselves to be mentioned in the same breath as London, Tokyo, and Sydney — world-class cities that have played host before.

The White House even is cheering us on, issuing this statement: “The city has taught all of us what it means to be Boston Strong. The president and first lady couldn’t be prouder of this accomplishment and of all of our nation’s athletes, and strongly support the effort to bring the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games to the United States. We hope to welcome athletes from around the globe to compete in Boston in 2024.”

But yet, I’m sure you heard it (it was hard not to): the collective groan across the city and state Thursday night when we learned of our fate.

It should have been one of our proudest moments, yet we nearly broke Twitter with our self-flagellating thoughts:

“What’s up with the traffic in Boston? Have the Olympics already started?”

“There’s very few things that would make me think about leaving Boston. The Olympics is one of them.”


“#Boston getting the #Olympics could equal Boston getting an Olympic size headache.”

We need to get over ourselves. The USOC has deemed us worthy. Let’s run with it.

People in other cities were channeling our own grumpiness. They don’t need anymore help from us. Just take a look at this dismissive tweet from LA councilman Joe Buscaino: “Are you kidding me?! Boston???”

Now I am the first to admit hosting the Olympics sounds like a crazy idea, but we’re a region full of bright minds. We’ve done a lot of things people said could not be done. Not just cleaning the harbor, depressing a highway, winning the World Series — but also universal health care and gay marriage.

Instead of saying no, let’s say yes to the possibility. We can still be our scrutinizing selves. In fact, I would be disappointed if we didn’t put John Fish and the rest of the Boston 2024 Olympics team through the wringer.

We should have lots of questions — and we should all try to be part of the answers. Critics of a Boston Olympics have howled about the lack of transparency in our bid. The Boston 2024 team will tell you there were ample public meetings.

Let’s all agree to disagree now that we are the US nominee. Boston 2024 vows it will hold community meetings starting this month in every neighborhood where an Olympic venue is being proposed. Let’s hold the committee to that — and if you felt left out of the process, you have a second chance to have your voice be heard.


We should hold Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Governor Charlie Baker to their word about keeping public costs down for this privately funded Olympics. Don’t let them mortgage our future so we can put on a show for the world.

Marc Draisen, who runs the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, set the right tone when he sent out a note after the announcement. His message: Preparing a bid should be about making our region better. Roads and transit that work. Olympics venues that create jobs, homes, and recreation for generations to come, not just for the tourists and athletes here for a couple of weeks.

And perhaps more ambitiously than hosting the world, he sees the Olympics as a “catalyst to build a more equitable region” by involving neighborhoods and residents who have been left out of the boom.

We can do this — at least the civil debate, perhaps even the Olympics, and possibly coming up with a new way for the games to benefit the community. We have the record of accomplishment. Now it’s a matter of getting out of our own way.

Shirley Leung is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at shirley.leung@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @leung.