I felt like such a rotter at the Convention Center on Wednesday, watching the Boston 2024 folks deliver the spectacular presentation that won over the US Olympic Committee.
Doubters like me are the reason they hold the Olympics in totalitarian nations these days. Democracies — especially mouthy ones like ours — put all kinds of annoying obstacles between The People and the magic of The Games. I was beginning to hate myself.
And judging by the day’s events, Olympic bigs aren’t too hot on my kind either. Before the presentation, the Globe revealed that Mayor Marty Walsh (who doesn’t want people to vote on the Games) signed an agreement with the USOC banning city employees from criticizing Boston’s bid. Shortly thereafter, Boston 2024 President Dan O’Connell suggested that even if voters reject the idea of hosting an Olympics, the Games could still go forward.
But let’s talk about those gorgeous conceptual drawings! The Boston of the Olympics is beautiful, its gleaming venues surrounded by lush trees and a joyous citizenry. The temporary Olympic Stadium by the Expressway at Widett Circle — sorry, organizers call it “Midtown” — would replace what O’Connell called “a salt pile and a tow lot” with a facility that would be the heart of the city for one glorious summer.
Connecting the stadium to South Station would be Olympic Boulevard, “a spine of energy,” currently known as Dorchester Ave. And a picturesque boulevard it is, running from the massive stadium to the waterfront, where hospitality barges would bob in the glistening waters of Fort Point Channel.
It would be a place “where athletes’ dreams come alive, and where youth are inspired to their own dreams,” said Cheri Blauwet, a doctor and wheelchair racer who has won enough medals to sink one of those barges.
When the aerial image of the fireworks coming off the stadium flashed up, I felt the sting of tears. What kind of jerk would stand in the way of all this, I wondered briefly. Then I remembered that jerk was me.
Can’t I just embrace the vision and trust that all will be hunky-dory? Noooo, I gotta get all hung up on the likelihood of cost overruns and taxpayer subsidies, the potential for resources being diverted from those who need them most, the danger of the Games dragging our priorities off kilter. I am such a killjoy.
If they can shake the resolve of a hardened party-pooper like me, however briefly, Walsh and other boosters are probably right to believe they’ll win over other skeptics once they lay out their vision. It will only be harder to question putting on the Games once the swell of civic pride becomes a tidal wave of patriotism. After all, polls are already in the backers’ favor.
But if they’re so confident their vision is irresistible, why are they so stingy about letting people speak their minds? Walsh released a statement after the presentation calling the agreement he signed, which says city employees “shall each promote” the city’s bid “in a positive manner,” routine contractual language that will not affect freedom of speech: Whatever city employees say on their own time is fine by him. That’s comforting, though it would be better if he’d never agreed to the chilling language in the first place.
O’Connell mostly ducked questions about the impact a referendum might have, relying instead on his certainty that the Olympic vision will be irresistible to voters: “I’m not sure we’ll ever see anything on the ballot,” he said. And if we do, and voters do the unthinkable? O’Connell said that wouldn’t necessarily end the quest. That’s distressing.
But luckily for O’Connell and others, we’re not likely to see that undemocratic day. Many skeptics will probably be won over. The Olympics will probably come to Boston. And the rotters will cry at the ceremonies and hope with all our hearts that we were wrong all along.
Yvonne Abraham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at email@example.com.