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USOC hails new Boston plan, but wants to see more support

(Left to right) US Olympic Committee chairman Larry Probst, Boston 2024 chairman Steve Pagliuca, and Boston 2024 vice chair Roger Crandall spoke Tuesday in Redwood City, Calif.Eric Risberg/Associated Press

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. — US Olympic officials on Tuesday effusively praised the “remarkable progress” they see in Boston 2024’s new Olympic plan and insisted they are not considering dropping the bid or replacing Boston as the US bid city.

But members of the US Olympic Committee remain concerned about the lack of public support for the bid and want to see poll numbers improve, “the sooner, the better,” USOC chairman Larry Probst said in a news conference after the committee’s quarterly meeting.

Probst pegged the percentage of local support for the bid “in the low- to mid-40s.” Olympic officials are hoping those numbers rise as the public digests Boston 2024’s new host-city plan, dubbed version 2.0, which the bid group unveiled on Monday.


“Obviously we’d like to see it get over 50 percent relatively soon,” Probst said. He would want support to climb “into the mid-60s range” before the International Olympic Committee chooses the 2024 host city, in about two years.

The USOC meeting came at a crucial time for Boston 2024. In less than three months, competitor cities will be required to submit their applications to the international committee.

USOC chief executive Scott Blackmun denied speculation that the committee would give up on Boston, either by dropping the bid or swapping in two-time Olympic host Los Angeles.

“We’re not discussing the prospect of not submitting the bid,” he said.

Boston 2024 representatives, including bid chairman Steve Pagliuca, on Tuesday briefed members of the USOC on the revised plan, which recasts the Olympics as a major city economic development project, in which Boston 2024 would spend $4.6 billion, come away with a $210-million surplus, and still place 23 venues within a roughly 6-mile radius. The plan depends on $4 billion in private investment from developers.

“It’s really come together,” Pagliuca said. “It’s a bid that can win on the international stage.”


Blackmun said the new plan “very much still resonates with the vision that persuaded our board to pick Boston in January,” over three other US contestants. “It’s very compact. It relies on our universities and young people. The budget looks very, very sound to us.”

Opponents say that the new 2.0 plan does not fully answer questions about how taxpayers would be protected from potential cost overruns.

USOC board members provided feedback to Boston 2024 during their private briefing, “mostly around the whole idea of public support,” Blackmun said.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh, a backer of the Olympic bid, quietly flew from the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado to dine with USOC board members on Monday night, part of a push to bolster confidence in Boston’s bid. The dinner was not listed on the mayor’s public schedule.

Some critics have suggested that the USOC should dump Boston’s bid because of low support, backing Los Angeles for the 2024 Games, or withdrawing entirely from the international competition for 2024 and regrouping for the 2026 Winter Olympics or the next Summer Games, in 2028.

In a recent statewide poll conducted for WBUR, 39 percent of those surveyed were in favor of Boston hosting the 2024 Summer Games. The number increased to 51 percent if venues were spread across the state. A recent nationwide Associated Press-GfK poll showed that 89 percent of Americans support a US bid, though just 61 percent would support a bid in their local area.


Boston 2024 officials have suggested public support for the Games will increase as voters learn more about their revised plan.

In one of the first expert analyses of the 2.0 plan, the region’s planning agency Tuesday said that improvements to the MBTA’s Red and Green lines — recommended by Boston 2024 — deserve high priority whether or not the Games ultimately come to Boston.

With vast amounts of commercial and housing development slated within a half mile of Green and Red line stations, the Boston area “shouldn’t have to wait nine years for these essential improvements to be completed,” the Metropolitan Area Planning Council said in a statement.

The group said that mass transit improvements outlined in the revised bid are crucial to regional growth.

But although many of the transportation improvements cited by Boston 2024 are “appropriate candidates for full public funding,” others would provide more limited benefits, the group found. “In these cases, a substantial private contribution is warranted,” it wrote.

The revised bid recommended reconfiguration of Kosciuszko Circle in Dorchester and improvements to the JFK/UMass Station as publicly funded projects, but the group concluded their impact would be far more localized than the broader modernization of the Red and Green lines.

“We see these as prime candidates for a public-private partnership in which the cost of infrastructure improvement is shared among the City of Boston, MassDOT, Boston 2024, and the master developer of the site,” the group said.

The USOC has a lot at stake with the Boston bid. After New York’s failed bid for the 2012 Summer Olympics and Chicago’s failed bid for the 2016 Games, the USOC would like to see a home Summer Olympics for the first time since 1996, in Atlanta.


During the two-hour meeting with Boston 2024, Olympic officials questioned the bid committee on whether the Games would still be compact after version 2.0 proposed venues across the state.

In response, Pagliuca said the bid committee shared several statistics that said a Boston Olympics would still be one of the most compact Games and rank in the top 2 in terms of the distances between the venues.

David Manfredi, Boston 2024’s architect and the one member who was present when the group made its original pitch to the USOC in December, suggested that while version 2.0 was crafted in response to public dissatisfaction with the bid in Boston, Olympic officials were happy with its resemblance to the bid they had chosen in January.

“They recognized that there is a lot of continuity, that the basic, underlying planning principles of compactness, of the two clusters — waterfront and university — have been absolutely consistent,” said Manfredi. “Our priorities, the way we think, hasn’t really changed.”

Peter Schworm of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Shira Springer can be reached at springer@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ShiraSpringer. Michael Levenson can be reached at mlevenson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mlevenson.