WALTHAM — The head of the American Olympic bid committee doubled down on his support for Boston’s drive to host the 2024 games at Bentley University’s commencement Saturday.
Scott Blackmun, chief executive of the United States Olympic Committee, told graduates he believed Boston had “the intellectual power to help the Olympic movement rediscover that vital link between sport and education on which it was founded.”
In his commencement address to Bentley’s 1,066 graduating seniors, he said Boston was “a nearly perfect match” for the priorities of the International Olympic Committee, which will pick the host of the 2024 Olympics in 2017. Despite widespread public opposition to Boston’s status as a host city, he said, he believes residents will come around to support the city’s bid.
“Amid all the criticisms and controversies, the qualities and character of Boston’s vision for the Olympics has nearly been lost, and that’s a shame. While I completely agree that the important issues of financial risk and taxpayer exposure need to be answered and resolved to the city’s satisfaction, I’m confident that Boston will emerge from these discussions and debates stronger than ever,” Blackmun said. “Boston can be, and I believe it will be, a shining showcase of America at its best.”
According to a Globe poll last month, 47 percent of Massachusetts residents support bringing the games to Boston. However, the level of support rises to 59 percent if the bid were to go forward with a mandate that no Massachusetts tax money be spent to build stadiums or run the Games, a centerpiece of the proposal from the private-sector backers of the local Olympic effort.
Blackmun, who played soccer as an undergraduate at Dartmouth College, also shared advice from John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach who led the men’s team from University of California, Los Angeles to 10 national championships. Citing Wooden, Blackmun counseled graduates to “be humble, be grateful, [and] be careful” not to be overcome by pride.
“Every member of Team USA I’ve met has a unique story, but every one of them shares a common thread,” Blackmun said. “The stories always start with talent, but invariably involve a family or friends or a coach who believed deeply in them and their ability.”
Remarks from Bentley’s president had an Olympic theme, as well. Gloria Larson, who also sits on the Boston 2024 board of directors with Blackmun, said the class of 2015 might borrow a motto from the Olympic movement. Translated from Latin, the motto is “faster, higher, stronger.”
“You are smart, you are nimble, you are compassionate, and most of all, class of 2015, you are fully, fully prepared for whatever life holds,” Larson said.
Blackmun received an honorary doctorate of commercial science degree from Bentley, most of whose undergraduates get business degrees. He joked that it would be more helpful than the philosophy degree he earned as an undergraduate.
The student speaker at Bentley’s ceremony was Sophia Sirage, president of the senior class. Graduates gave her a standing ovation for her humorous speech about turning down a job offer to start her own business and about how students should ignore their fear.