Leading supporters and opponents of Boston’s bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics will face off in a prime-time televised debate next week, co-sponsored by The Boston Globe and WFXT FOX25, the media companies said in a joint statement.
The two-on-two clash, airing live next Thursday on FOX25 from 8 to 9 p.m., pits Boston 2024 chairman Steve Pagliuca and US Olympic Committee board member Daniel Doctoroff against Chris Dempsey, a cochairman of the opposition group No Boston Olympics, and Smith College economist Andrew Zimbalist.
The announcement came on the same day a group opposed to public funding for the Olympics filed language for an initiative petition with the state attorney general, intent on placing a question on the November 2016 ballot.
The proposal, long pushed by former gubernatorial candidate Evan Falchuk, would prohibit the state from spending public money to support the Games, though it exempts spending on public transportation “even if such actions may facilitate procuring, aiding, or remediating the effects of, the 2024 Olympics.”
Top USOC officials were also in Boston on Thursday for meetings with Boston 2024 leaders and Mayor Martin J. Walsh.
The mayoral meeting was a routine check-in, during which USOC officials reiterated their public stance that they are not considering any other cities for a 2024 bid, said one person familiar with what happened.
A Walsh spokesperson said in a statement, “The mayor had a productive meeting with the USOC this afternoon and looks forward to continuing to work with them on Boston’s Olympic bid.”
The pro-Olympic side in next week’s debate will feature Pagliuca, who took over as the head of Boston 2024 in May, and Doctoroff, also a volunteer member of the Boston 2024 Board of Directors.
Doctoroff is a former New York deputy mayor and led that city’s ultimately unsuccessful bid for the 2012 Summer Games, which were won by London.
Zimbalist, who will join one of the leaders of the opposition movement in Boston, has been one of the most prominent critic of Boston 2024’s plans.
The matchup offers an interesting side note: Zimbalist claimed in June that Pagliuca tried to hire him to the bid team, which Pagliuca has strongly denied.
The debate comes at a critical time for Boston 2024. Public support for the bid has languished under 50 percent in opinion polls, and Boston 2024 is facing pressure from the USOC to improve those numbers ahead of a September deadline for the USOC to formally submit a bid city for the 2024 Games.
In a joint statement Thursday, USOC and Boston 2024 officials said they had productive meetings in Boston, which included discussions with both Walsh and Governor Charlie Baker. The popular governor’s verdict on the bid is considered crucial to its viability.
Paris, Rome, Hamburg, and Budapest are also expected to bid for the 2024 Games.
The debate will be moderated by FOX25 anchor Maria Stephanos and Boston Globe reporter Sacha Pfeiffer. The participants will answer questions raised by Pfeiffer and Stephanos, as well as questions from the public. Viewers and readers can submit questions on the Boston Globe and FOX25 Facebook pages and through Twitter with the #OlympicsDebate hashtag.
The debate will be live streamed on bostonglobe.com, myfoxboston.com and the FOX25 News App.
“The Olympic bid is one of the most transformational ideas that Boston has had to consider in a generation and also one of the most controversial,” Boston Globe chief executive Mike Sheehan said in a statement.
WFXT vice president and general Manager Tom Raponi said, “We hope this open, public dialogue will give viewers a clear picture about the financial viability of the Boston Olympics host city plan and its potential impact on them.”
Reporters from both outlets will discuss the debate and fact-check statements in a postdebate analysis live streamed on bostonglobe.com, myfoxboston.com, and the FOX25 News app, the companies said.