London mayor predicts Boston Olympics opposition will fade
Says benefits will override concern
CAMBRIDGE — London's mayor, Boris Johnson, who rode his city's 2012 Summer Olympics to an international profile, predicted that local opposition to Boston's bid to host the 2024 Games would fade as the benefits promised by organizers begin to materialize.
"The change will come," Johnson told reporters after a meeting with Boston 2024 and members of the US Olympic Committee. "As soon as, if and when Boston actually gets the nod from the International Olympic Committee, I think there will be massive enthusiasm, of the kind that we saw in London.
Johnson, whose Massachusetts schedule was stunted by the continuing snowstorm, said the roughly $1.5 billion in infrastructure upgrades his area saw probably would have occurred eventually, but that the Olympics expedited them.
Ultimately, he said in a separate Globe interview that was monitored by a Boston 2024 volunteer, "euphoria" overtook pessimism within the political and business communities.
"Everybody basically did it together," Johnson said.
Johnson called the packaging of the Olympic bid crucial to persuading local skeptics, and suggested broadening the appeal beyond the usual beneficiaries.
"You've got to talk about what it means for your city, you've got to talk about what it's going to mean for everybody in your city. It's got to have a social impact, massive social impact," Johnson said.
The London Games helped vault Johnson, easily recognizable with an unruly mop of blonde hair and an equally colorful personality, onto the world stage. The Conservative Party member is considered a potential contender for national office.
In an e-mail, Christopher Dempsey, cochairman of the No Boston Olympics opposition group, said, "Boris wants to justify the $15 billion plus, most of it public money, spent on the London 2012 Games."
"London's Olympic organizers went three times over their initial budget, yet economists have found no evidence of increased tourism, job growth, or foreign investment due to the Games," he added. "Boston's citizens have a proud history of standing up to elites in London telling them how to do things — we're not sure why Boris thinks this time will be any different."
In the interview, Johnson said Olympics-related investments had helped revitalize areas of London.
Monday's snow delayed Johnson's arrival at the British Consulate in Kendall Square, where he was greeted by Boston 2024 chairman and Suffolk Construction chief executive John Fish and Bain Capital managing director and Celtic co-owner Steve Pagliuca, who cochairs the group's fund-raising committee.
Pointing to polling that indicates majority support for the city's bid, Fish also acknowledged organizers would need to work to convince doubters. He said the group was working with former Treasury secretary Lawrence Summers, whom he called a "world renowned gentleman economist."
"The more that we socialize the message about the cost benefits of hosting the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, we know we'll turn the crowd around quite a bit," Fish told a media pack that was dominated by British reporters traveling with Johnson on his six-day US trade mission.
Fish playfully dabbled in British politics by referencing the widespread speculation about Johnson's desire for higher office. Asked by a British reporter if he would like Johnson to advise Boston if it were to win the Games, Fish replied with a smile, "We would love the prime minister to be helpful to us."
The event came after the weather interfered with some of Johnson's other plans, including an appearance at Harvard University's Stem Cell Institute.
"We were looking forward to the mayor of London's visit . . . and are of course disappointed that the snowstorm paralyzing the area forced its cancellation," said B. D. Colen, senior communications officer for University Science.
Johnson, who is on a six-day tour of the United States, landed in Boston on Sunday afternoon, before taking a tour of the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway and getting schooled on the history of the city's "Big Dig" project.