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Shirley Leung

Baker needs to make a decision on Boston 2024

Up until now, Governor Baker’s political instincts have told him to stay far away — and rightly so.
Up until now, Governor Baker’s political instincts have told him to stay far away — and rightly so.(Brian Snyder/REUTERS)

Charlie Baker, put us out of our misery.

Bid 2.0 is in, the polls are out, the prime-time debate is over, and soon you will have the Brattle Group report vetting the plan to host the 2024 Summer Games.

Once that report is done, you should have everything you need to say whether we should go for the gold — or stay home. Your opinion matters because you hold the purse strings — and as everyone knows, hosting the Olympics ain’t cheap.

Let’s face it: Our Olympic bid is on life support. Boston 2024 chairman Steve Pagliuca has put out the best plan he can under the circumstances, yet public support remains lackluster.

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Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has been the public sector’s biggest Olympic cheerleader, but he can’t go it alone.

So, governor, either pull the plug — or breathe new life into this thing. Don’t let us muddle along in a coma-like state.

Up until now, your political instincts have told you to stay far away — and rightly so. Just look at what’s happening to Walsh and the Boston City Council with an inane fight over the original — and obsolete — bid documents. Whether a supporter or opponent, the Olympics finds a way to embarrass and embroil officials in controversy.

Instead you’ve remained neutral, telling reporters that the bid is a “great planning exercise.”

So no harm in playing coy, right?

Actually, we deserve more than a maybe. We elect governors to make tough decisions, not avoid them.

It would be politically expedient to say there are pros and cons to hosting the Games and keep playing this down the middle.

You could even say it’s up to the voters — and support, which you love to do, a ballot initiative. But we didn’t elect you to collect signatures outside Star Market.

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Millions of private dollars have already been spent organizing the Boston bid, and a referendum would eat up yet more time and money. But a petition drive would only be worth pursuing if we knew the governor is behind the Games. Otherwise it’s a waste of everyone’s time.

No doubt this will be one of the most difficult decisions of your nascent administration. That’s why you signed off on spending up to $250,000 to have the Brattle Group, a Cambridge consultancy, evaluate the costs and benefits of hosting the Olympics and for what taxpayers might be on the hook.

Saying no to the Summer Games won’t sit well with your new BFF, Mayor Walsh. You already put on hold the $1 billion expansion of the Southie convention center, something the mayor wanted done. It will be hard to say no to him twice.

Opposing the Games would also upset companies and business leaders, including key political supporters, who have raised more than $14 million to craft the bid.

But the Olympic dream is not yours. You didn’t come to Beacon Hill to chase a grand vision. You wanted to create jobs, improve schools, strengthen communities, and make government work better. In other words, fixing the Health Connector website and shortening the lines at the RMV are your kind of priorities.

“It might not be as sexy as what a lot of other people want to talk about it, but at the end of the day, for most of the people who are out there, it really matters,” you recently told my Globe colleague Joshua Miller.

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But if you wanted to save the Olympics, you could do it. When you ran Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, you brought it back from the brink of bankruptcy. And as governor, you’re putting in bold reforms to fix the MBTA.

You love challenges, and Boston’s Olympic bid is full of them. We face stiff competition from Paris, Rome, Budapest, and others. The United States Olympic Committee will be watching closely to see if you bring out the pom poms — or sit on the sidelines.

The USOC will need to know by Sept. 15, the deadline for officially nominating an American city. The Boston bid will need the support of the governor to move to the next round.

Don’t keep everyone guessing.


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