Boston sports legends Larry Bird, David Ortiz, and Jo Jo White have joined a new 30-member board of directors that will oversee the development of Boston’s bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics, broadening the voices supporting the bid and bringing a dash of star power to an effort trying to rebound from a rocky start.
The board also includes several local civic and business leaders, seven members of the US Olympic Committee, and former Olympians Meb Keflezighi, the men’s winner of the 2014 Boston Marathon, and figure skating star Michelle Kwan. The names were announced Wednesday by the bid committee, Boston 2024.
With a new poll suggesting support for the local bid has inched up, the board held its first meeting Wednesday morning, gathering privately at the Huntington Avenue YMCA, according to Boston 2024. About two-thirds of the members were in attendance, including Kwan and Keflezighi, but not Bird or Ortiz.
Boston 2024 officials had promised for weeks that they would revamp their leadership and install a board modeled after a typical governance structure for nonprofit entities.
The full board — at 30 people, with further appointments expected — is composed mainly of bold-faced names already in leadership positions. It will meet twice a year to vote on major policy initiatives, according to Boston 2024. Board members will offer their advice through a set of subcommittees, expected to be finalized in the next several weeks.
An executive subcommittee, whose members have not yet been finalized, will meet quarterly and provide oversight for the operations of the bid leadership team.
Board specialist Mark Rogers, founder and chief executive of BoardProspects.com, said the Boston 2024 board of directors is large compared with the average nonprofit, which may have “around 17 or 18” people on its board.
“Typically when you have larger boards, there is an executive committee which takes on the bulk of the responsibilities,” he said. “What you have here, they’re using the Larry Birds and the David Ortizes and some of these big names to draw some attention to it. My guess is you aren’t going to see a lot of these people being really active in their board role. I think the executive committee will take on the bulk of the work here.”
The new board made its debut as Boston 2024 is looking for a spring reboot after a difficult winter. Record snows that overwhelmed the MBTA seemed to undermine the public’s confidence that the transit system could handle an international sports event. The committee, though entirely privately financed through donations, also was severely criticized for a deal to pay former governor Deval Patrick $7,500 a day for occasional travel on behalf of the bid. Patrick ultimately said he would not accept fees.
One public survey in March suggested just 36 percent of Greater Boston voters backed the bid, prompting some calls for the USOC to rethink its choice of Boston as the US bid city. The USOC has publicly stood by its choice.
Support has seemed to creep up since the winter low point. A Suffolk University poll released Wednesday suggests 43 percent of voters support making a bid, and 46 percent do not. Support jumped to 56 percent when voters were asked about making a bid with the requirement that no public money can be used to run the Games. The poll of 500 voters ran April 16-21. Margin of error was 4.4 percent.
The board includes a number of familiar faces around the bid, such as Suffolk Construction head John Fish, chairman of Boston 2024, and Boston Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca, as well as additions from the worlds of business, labor, and education: Carol Fulp, chief executive of The Partnership Inc.; Brian Doherty, general agent of the Building and Construction Trades Council of the Metropolitan District; and Tom Keady, a vice president at Boston College, who was a campaign adviser to Mayor Martin J. Walsh.
All members will serve on the board as unpaid volunteers, according to Boston 2024. The bid committee expects the board will add members.
“The formation of Boston 2024’s board of directors further solidifies the important relationship between the City of Boston, the bid committee, and the USOC,” Larry Probst, head of the USOC, said in a statement. “The enthusiastic support from each of the partners reflects the tremendous opportunity the Games provide.”
An opposition group, No Boston Olympics, said in a statement that the bid committee was “appealing to our hometown pride by roping in Larry Legend and Big Papi, but they still haven’t addressed fundamental gaps in the bid’s financing, and it’s hard to see how adding sports heroes to the board gets them any closer.”
While it remains to be seen how involved the star athletes will be in the bid, Boston 2024 has recruited some of the more eye-popping names in sports.
Bird, one of the greatest Celtics of all time, was a member of the original US Olympic basketball “Dream Team,” which stomped its way through an overmatched field to win a gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Games.
Ortiz, who joined the Red Sox in 2003, has become one of the best clutch power hitters of his generation. The slugger known as Big Papi is one of the most beloved active professional athletes in Boston.
White earned an Olympic gold medal in basketball in 1968 in Mexico City and played with the Celtics, from 1969-79. He learned earlier this month he would be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Kwan is a silver medalist in figure skating at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano and a bronze medalist from the 2002 Salt Lake Games.
The installation of the board of directors is the second major evolution in leadership for Boston 2024. In its early days in late 2013, the bid committee was mainly an ad hoc collection of specialists led by Fish.
As the endeavor became more serious, Fish took the role of unpaid chairman of the bid committee, and Boston 2024 expanded its paid staff and recruited professionals for advisory committees, covering issues such as fund-raising, planning, and technology. While a number of advisory members have played significant public roles in the bid, it is unclear how heavily the bid committee has leaned on its advisers.
The US Olympic Committee chose Boston in January to represent the United States in a worldwide contest for the 2024 Summer Games. Rome and Hamburg will bid for the 2024 Olympics. Paris is close to getting into the race; Budapest may jump in next month.
Boston 2024, under pressure from critics, has called for a statewide referendum on the bid in November 2016,and say they would not pursue a bid unless it is endorsed by voters statewide and within Boston. Former gubernatorial candidate Evan Falchuk is spearheading an unrelated ballot effort to stop public money from being spent on the Olympics.
The International Olympic Committee will choose the 2024 host in 2017.
Boston 2024 has proposed a roughly $9 billion Olympics, for the most part privately financed through corporate sponsorships, broadcast revenue, ticket fees, and capital from private investors to build key Olympic facilities, which the investors would control after the Games for commercial uses. The Olympic plan relies on at least $1 billion from the US federal government for security, without which Boston could not host.
Critics say the financing plan could leave taxpayers responsible for cost overruns. The bid committee has promised to buy private insurance to protect the public against loss.