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Olympic group backs off tax plan

Might still seek some public financing for infrastructure

Boston 2024 CEO Richard Davey (left) backed away from a tax financing plan the group filed to the US Olympic Committee, but did not disclose to the public.Justin Saglio for The Boston Globe/File

The chief executive of Boston 2024 said Friday that the Olympic bid committee might propose public spending for infrastructure related to the Games, but he backed away from a tax financing plan the group filed to the US Olympic Committee but did not disclose to the public.

Boston 2024 came under fire this week when previously unreleased documents showed that the committee had redacted from the public version of its venue plan a proposal for public financing for land and infrastructure costs in Widett Circle, site of a proposed temporary Olympic stadium.

The documents raised questions about the committee's commitment to transparency.

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The municipal financing tool revealed in the unredacted proposal, called tax increment financing bonds, dedicates future tax money to pay off borrowing for infrastructure.

Richard A. Davey, chief executive of Boston 2024, said in an interview that the committee will "probably not" use tax increment financing as part of its new venue plan, which it is calling version 2.0.

Under pressure from Governor Charlie Baker, the bid committee has promised to release the new plan in June.

What Boston 2024 did not do Friday was explain specifically why the tax financing proposal was redacted in documents the committee released to the public in January.

"On the redacting question, I can't answer that," said Davey, who started his job after the redacted documents were released, "other than to say in phase one of this bid process I think there was a lot of concern from the USOC that information be kept confidential to keep the integrity of the bidding process in place."

Davey's comments came on the day of Boston 2024's first broad response to the controversy about the documents, the latest to beset the bid effort. Davey and other Boston 2024 leaders returned early Friday from a meeting with the International Olympic Committee in Switzerland. Boston Magazine and Boston Business Journal reported on the redacted documents this week.

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Critics have cited the documents as proof Boston 2024 is not committed to stage privately funded Olympics, should the city be named host of the 2024 Summer Games. But Davey said the committee has been consistent. The message all along, he said, was that Boston 2024 would plan to build sports venues and operate the Games exclusively with private money, while at the same time suggesting public expenditures for roads, sidewalks, and other infrastructure that would enhance the Games and provide a lasting benefit to the city.

He said that when the bid committee releases the new version of its plan, it won't omit critical information.

"We're taking a much more open, transparent, and public process with what we're currently calling our 2.0 bid," Davey said.

That plan is expected to suggest location changes for some venues, as well as provide new renderings and detailed financial information on how the committee would deliver the athlete's village and the Olympic stadium, the two most challenging Olympic facilities.

"The 2.0 will . . . have some detail behind it so folks can analyze our assumptions [to determine] whether or not they believe our plan is feasible," Davey said.

The fate of the bid might rest on how the new plan stands up to scrutiny. The USOC has a September deadline to nominate its bid city to the International Olympic Committee, and it is hard to imagine the Boston bid going forward if Governor Charlie Baker or Mayor Martin J. Walsh is underwhelmed by what Boston 2024 proposes next month.

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Both Baker and Walsh have said that under the right circumstances, tax money for public infrastructure around the Olympics is not a deal-breaker.

"I'm perfectly happy to have public money spent on stuff that benefits the public," the governor said Friday in remarks to reporters. "And to me that means everybody; it doesn't just mean the Olympics. It means if there are investments we should be making as a Commonwealth that would support the Commonwealth — economically, in terms of job creation or community building or whatever it happens to be — those are the sorts of things that we're here to do."

Walsh offered similar comments Thursday.

Baker claimed no inside knowledge of the new venue plan but said he suspects it will include more venues outside of Boston.

"My expectation is that it's going to be a much broader geographic distribution than the original proposal," he said.

The committee's first plan was billed as the most walkable Olympics ever, with a vast majority of the venues in Boston or just outside of it, and within a few minutes' walk of MBTA stops. Since the first plan came out in January, a number of communities outside of Boston have expressed interest in hosting events.

One event sure to be relocated is beach volleyball, originally proposed for a temporary facility on Boston Common.

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City residents pushed back against the plan, and Boston 2024 has pledged to find a new location.

Olympic planners have had "good conversations" with people connected to other possible sites for beach volleyball, Davey said. He would not name them, saying at one point the committee "learned from some of our past mistakes" and wants to be sure "the stakeholders are all informed" before plans become public.

"If we can't have an iconic backdrop like the State House, we'd love a water backdrop," he said.

It probably can't be Revere Beach, he said, an obvious choice, and one the committee investigated. Planners have concluded there is not a proper spot to handle the temporary structure needed for one of the Games' most popular events, he said.

The International Olympic Committee is scheduled to meet in Peru in 2017 to choose the 2024 host. Rome and Hamburg have announced they will bid. Paris and Budapest seem close to getting into the race.

The United States has not hosted the Summer Games since 1996, in Atlanta.


Joshua Miller of the Globe staff contributed to this story. Mark Arsenault can be reached at marsenault@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bostonglobemark.