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Residents in Roxbury voice Olympics concerns

Bill Clendaniel, retired president of the Mount Auburn Cemetery, spoke during the first of a series of community meetings Monday in Roxbury.Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe/Globe Freelance

Boston's quest to host the 2024 Summer Olympics came to Roxbury Monday night for a community meeting that drew more than 100 people.

For two hours, organizers of Boston 2024, the group preparing the city's bid, heard from local residents and businessowners who voiced their concerns and their ideas for the Games.

Jobs, housing, and economic development opportunities are key areas of concern, particularly for communities of color, residents said. The meeting was held at the Yawkey Boys & Girls Club of Boston on Warren Street.

"We always hear, 'A rising tide lifts all boats,' " said Leonard Nelson, 55, of Roxbury, who said he works as a city custodian. "We've had a lot [of] big [sports] events," he said, citing the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in 1999 at Fenway Park, "but economically, a lot of [the benefits] of the events don't trickle down."


Mary Ann Nelson, a Roxbury homeowner, urged organizers to make sure local businesses benefit from the short- and long-term planning for the international event.

"I really want to make sure that Roxbury businesses and people are involved in the process," said Nelson, who is not related to Leonard.

She suggested organizers utilize local businesses as they plan to bring the Games to Boston.

"I think you need to do something now, so that in case we don't get the Olympics, this process will have a lasting impact," she said.

Richard Davey, chief executive of Boston 2024, said he could not offer specific numbers about job creation or investment. But he said that the goal is for the Games to "have an economic impact on the entire city . . . There is an opportunity for small businesses."

Organizers gave a brief overview of key elements of the plan for holding the Olympics in Boston, including the use of public transportation, construction of temporary venues, and the use of public land, such as Boston Common and Franklin Park.


But they also stressed the power of sport to inspire people across a community.

"You can't lose sight of the power that sports had in our community," said John Fish, chairman of Boston 2024. "We ask for your support, and your counsel, as we move forward."

Fish also noted that Roxbury is in a unique position, saying that "Roxbury is the center of Boston."

Residents of other Boston neighborhoods weighed in Monday night on the broader effects of the Games, such as on public lands and transportation.

"I'm here to plead that you give up the Boston Common," said Bill Clendaniel, 70, a South End resident. Beach volleyball, which is planned for the Common, should not be played there, he maintained.

"That's Boston's oldest public space," Clendaniel said. "If you are going to fence it off for a month, that's going to keep the public out."

Officials said decisions on site selections are not yet final.

Monday's meeting was the first of 20 that Boston 2024 plans to hold over the next 20 weeks across the state, to gain public input into the Games bid. The next scheduled meeting is March 11 at Lowell City Hall.

The meetings are separate from neighborhood gatherings that Mayor Martin J. Walsh has scheduled. Walsh's next meeting is set for Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Condon School in South Boston.

Kathy McCabe can be reached at kmccabe@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKMcCabe.