Boston city council grills Olympic bid chief about plans
Davey provides few new details on financing
A top executive with the committee bidding for the 2024 Summer Olympics faced sharp questions Friday from Boston councilors about financing, transparency, and proposed venues for the Games.
But Richard A. Davey, chief executive officer of Boston 2024, offered few new details, particularly when pressed for specifics about private financing of the Games. The bid committee has said it will unveil a new, comprehensive proposal that will include a detailed budget next week. Officials have pledged that tax dollars will not be used to pay for the Games.
Councilors expressed discontent that Boston 2024 did not have financial data it could share.
“We have a very nice presentation on the venues,” Councilor Josh Zakim said. “But not much new on the finances. It’s frustrating.”
Davey said the organization was in the final throes of completing its financing plan and planned to brief its board of directors over the weekend. Davey said that after the revised proposal is released, he could return next week to brief the council in depth. The City Council is on summer break next week.
The City Council hearing had been billed as a discussion of venues and finances for the bid, but much of the discussion focused on venues that had already been made public.
Several councilors said they were encouraged by changes Boston 2024 had made to potential sporting venues. The committee has taken a broader, regional approach as it has abandoned some of the more controversial sites, such as the plan for beach volleyball on Boston Common.
Davey also said Boston 2024 was looking for a new, smaller location for the international broadcasting center, which had originally been described as a 1-million-square-foot facility targeted for the Fort Point Channel neighborhood.
“What I did see today is a marked improvement. It looks like there are legitimate venue locations,” City Council President Bill Linehan said. “I’m excited about that, but we need the bottom line.”
Councilor Frank Baker also expressed optimism, but said the financial questions needed to be answered.
“Boston and the region can support the Olympics,” Baker said. “I’d like to be able to support the Olympics.”
Councilor Matt O’Malley asked Davey if Boston 2024 would reject the International Olympic Committee requirement that the city provide a financial guarantee if there are problems.
“No,” Davey said. “We could not move forward as a bid city. But more importantly, we think we have crafted a plan . . . that we can bring the risk down to as close to zero as possible.”
Councilor Michelle Wu asked about the impact on the city’s bond rating and if it still made sense for Boston to serve as host for the Games given the new regional approach. Wu suggested the state could serve as host and take the role as financial guarantor if required. Davey rejected that idea.
“Wherever we land on venues, the vast majority will still be in Boston,” Davey said. “We’re not contemplating that the host agreement would be signed by anyone else other than the City of Boston.”
Councilor Tito Jackson pressed Davey to release a full, unredacted copy of the six-chapter bid book submitted to the United State Olympic Committee. Officials have released the first four chapters of the bid, but redacted versions of the last two sections.
“I can’t commit to that, councilor,” Davey said, citing nondisclosure agreements. “I would just urge you to, if you may, focus on” the version of the plan that will be released next week.
Jackson said it will be impossible to determine what changes Boston 2024 made if the council does not have a full copy of the original proposal.
“How do we know,” Jackson asked, “what we don’t know?”