With a shroud of secrecy befitting the CIA, the United States Olympic Committee board of directors on Tuesday huddled in Cambridge to trim the number of possible host cities for the 2024 Summer Games to an official shortlist — and then skipped town without saying whether Boston made the cut.
"Coming out of today's meeting we will be communicating with a smaller group of cities," Larry Probst, USOC chairman, told reporters in a conference call after the round of cuts.
But which cities? Everybody expects Los Angeles made the cut. And probably Boston, too. What about San Francisco? Washington, D.C.? How about Dallas? Word out of San Diego has been pessimistic of late.
"Again, we are not going to make any comments about cities that have been selected to go forward or not been selected to go forward."
Like detectives who won't release names until notifying next of kin, the USOC wants to speak first to the cities that have made its short list, which probably includes about three cities.
John F. Fish, the chairman of Suffolk Construction and a leader of a private group exploring a Boston 2024 Olympic bid, said he expects to learn in the coming days whether the city made the cut.
He is "cautiously optimistic."
Even if it makes the list, Boston would still need to overcome enormous hurdles before the city could host the world's greatest festival of sports a decade from now.
The USOC will spend roughly the next six to eight months performing "due diligence" on the cities that made its shortlist. The committee's bid team will make a number of visits to the finalist cities to review plans and build relationships.
"It's going to be making sure that the cities have the land and the buildings and the wherewithal and the consensus to do what they said they can do," said Scott Blackmun, USOC chief executive. "It's a lot of land planning, it's a lot of discussion around the host city contract, around the terms of our joint venture with each city."
The committee wants to be sure "the really big-ticket items" have been properly accounted for, such as an Olympic stadium, an Olympic village to safely house the athletes, and a media and broadcast center.
In the meantime, the people who live, work, and govern in the shortlisted cities must decide if taking on the enormous job of hosting an Olympic Games is really something they want to do.
The USOC is not even sure yet if it will choose any US city to compete for the 2024 games.
By next year, the committee will decide if any of the US cities is capable of putting forth a winning bid, and — if so — the committee would choose one proposal. That city would compete with others around the world in a global competition before the International Olympic Committee.
The IOC plans to choose the host city for the games in 2017.
The USOC directors held their quarterly meeting Tuesday on MIT's campus, though Boston Olympic backers are not getting too excited about the location, as the meetings regularly move around the country to different locations.
Boston's pursuit of the 2024 games has been driven since last fall by a group of some of the region's most prominent business and civic leaders, including Robert Reynolds, president and chief executive of Putnam Investments, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, former Massachusetts transportation secretary Jeff Mullan, former Boston police commissioner Edward F. Davis, and former state economic development secretary Daniel O'Connell, president and chief executive of the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, a nonprofit public policy group made up of chief executives from some of the state's largest corporations.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who ran the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, is advising the Boston group.
The local group has been meeting regularly with architects, transportation specialists, and other consultants in a serious but discreet effort to identify potential sites for athletic venues, and sites for an Olympic stadium and village.
Opponents, however, say the expense and financial risk of holding the games is just too great.