Boston picked to bid for Olympics
DENVER — The United States Olympic Committee has chosen Boston to be its entry in a global competition to host the 2024 Olympic Games, putting its faith in an old city that is brand new to the Olympic movement.
The USOC announced Thursday after a meeting at Denver International Airport that it will back Boston’s Olympic bid over those from San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and two-time Olympic host Los Angeles.
With the vote, Boston vaults into an unfamiliar, high-profile position on the international sports stage. During the next two-and-a-half years, it will be part of a competition that could include some of the most significant cities in the world: Paris, Rome, Hamburg or Berlin, Budapest, and Istanbul. There could be competition from South Africa, from Doha in Qatar, from Baku in Azerbaijan, and from other cities or regions attracted by new rules intended to make it easier to host the Games. A winner will be chosen in 2017.
Scott Blackmun, USOC chief executive, said that the decision was “gut-wrenching” for the panel but that Boston came out on top in part due to the business people and elected officials who drove the effort.
“One of the great things about the Boston bid was that the bid leadership and the political leadership were on the same page,” Blackmun said, in an exclusive Globe interview at the Denver airport.
The commission also liked Boston’s strong sports culture, and the opportunity to create an Olympic legacy in a new city, he said.
Mayor Martin J. Walsh, who was initially skeptical of the bid but has since become a stalwart supporter, called the USOC’s decision an exceptional honor for Boston.
“This selection is in recognition of our city’s talent, diversity, and global leadership,” Walsh said in a statement. “Our goal is to host an Olympic and Paralympic Games that are innovative, walkable, and hospitable to all.”
City, state, and Olympic officials have scheduled a press conference at 8:30 a.m. on Friday in Boston, where they are expected to outline the next steps in the process. The organizing group must in coming months fill in the details of bare-bones Olympic venue and transportation plans, galvanize public support, and convince a chorus of skeptics that Boston can effectively pull off the world’s most prestigious international sports festival — without relying on taxpayers’ money — nine years from now.
Boston 2024 organizers have promised to hold extensive public hearings around the city this year as the bid becomes more defined.
Governor Charlie Baker, who took office just hours before Boston was named the bid city, said the USOC decision was “great news,” and he looked forward to working with Walsh and Olympic organizers “to address the multitude of issues that need to be discussed, including keeping costs down and continuing to press forward on pledges of a privately funded Olympics.”
The White House offered congratulations, saying: “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,” the White House said in a statement. “We hope to welcome athletes from around the globe to compete in Boston in 2024.”
The local opposition group, No Boston Olympics, said Massachusetts should direct its attention to improving the economy, housing, and education.
“An Olympics accomplishes none of these things,” the group said in a statement after the decision was announced. “In fact, it threatens to divert resources and attention away from these challenges — all for a chance to host an event that economists say does not leave local economies better off.”
The International Olympic Committee will choose the host city for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games and Paralympic Games at a meeting scheduled for Lima in 2017.
The United States has not hosted any Olympics since the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. The last Summer Olympics in the United States were the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Olympic experts said they believe any US bid starts out as a very strong contender, due in part to the long period of time — 22 years by the time the 2024 Games begin — since the last Olympics in the United States.
The contest to be the 2024 host will be held under the IOC’s new bidding guidelines, known as Agenda 2020, which the organization approved late last year. With an eye toward holding down the cost of staging the Olympics, the reforms say the IOC will look favorably on the use of existing sports facilities as well as relatively low-cost temporary venues.
Boston’s compact Olympic bid leans heavily on existing venues, such as TD Garden and college facilities, including Harvard Stadium, Boston College’s Conte Forum, and Boston University’s Agganis Arena.
Current plans call for a temporary Olympic stadium at Widett Circle, along Interstate 93 near Frontage Road south of downtown, for opening and closing ceremonies and track and field events. An Olympic village to house the athletes is planned for the former Bayside Expo grounds, with units converted to workforce housing or student dorms for the University of Massachusetts Boston.
Local Olympic organizers say Boston 2024’s operating budget of about $4.5 billion would be financed mainly through broadcast fees, corporate sponsorships, and ticket sales. They have pledged not to use public money beyond what is already planned to be spent on infrastructure.
City officials also insisted on a provision that none of the other three cities did, a source familiar with the process said: an insurance policy of up to $25 million to protect City Hall coffers from any liabilities associated with the bid.
Boston 2024, the group that steered the bid, paid about $1 million for the insurance policy, which was signed on Wednesday, the source said.
The policy includes standard exclusions for incidents such as fraud or criminal acts.
USA Swimming, the governing body for the sport in the United States, said Boston is “well-known for its passionate support of its sports teams, and that will carry over to make it an extraordinary Olympic Games host.”
USA Gymnastics called Boston “a tremendous sports town” that “will rally around becoming America’s choice for the 2024 Olympic Games. Given the city’s strong sense of patriotism along with its very diverse base of citizens, it offers a wonderful stage for the world’s most important sports event.”
Of the four US cities under consideration, Boston had the least Olympic experience.
In addition to hosting successful Olympics in 1932 and 1984, Los Angeles has a permanent organization that coordinates bids for the Summer Games nearly every time they are available. San Francisco pursued the 2008 Games, for which the USOC did not submit a US bid, and the city made pitches to host the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. Washington tried for the 2012 Games.
Boston’s Olympic dreams date to 2013, when a small volunteer group met informally with USOC officials and began to explore whether it was feasible to offer a competitive bid.
Suffolk Construction chief executive John Fish emerged as the leader of Boston 2024, guiding a who’s who of business and political leaders, including: Bob Reynolds, 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.
Fish, in a brief telephone interview after the decision, said he was not surprised the USOC trusted Boston to carry the country’s Olympic hopes.
“I would argue the world trusts Boston,” Fish said. “The world sends its youth to learn here. The world sends its sick to heal here in Boston, right? The world sends it greatest minds to innovate in Boston.
“So why not invite the world’s greatest athletes to compete in Boston?”