Olympic bid left debt of millions
Boston 2024, vendors work to shrink shortfall
Boston 2024, the defunct Olympic bid committee, closed shop in July with a multimillion dollar shortfall, prompting organizers to ask some vendors to accept less than they were owed, according to internal documents and people familiar with the bid committee’s finances.
The outstanding debts ranged from more than a $1 million owed to the architect who worked closely with the committee to a few hundred dollars owed on a catering bill. The committee also has not paid $7,500 it had committed to the David Ortiz Children’s Fund.
When the bid collapsed this summer, the nonprofit bid committee was confronting more than $4 million in outstanding payroll obligations and unpaid invoices — with just $571,000 in cash on hand, according to the internal committee documents, which were obtained by the Globe.
Two people familiar with the bid’s finances say that the documents contained errors that inflated the total and that the original shortfall was never that high. One of those people said that the shortfall has since shrunk “south of $1 million.” The debt was reduced in part through additional donations collected in August and September and negotiations with vendors, who agreed to convert all or part of their debt into a charitable donation.
People familiar with the committee’s wind down expect it to continue for at least several more weeks, with more donations and payments expected.
Boston 2024 was a subject of intense public interest — and often public scorn — during its short life. The US Olympic Committee surprised many experts last January by choosing Boston to represent the United States in the worldwide sweepstakes for the 2024 Summer Games, at a time when many experts thought a US bidder would be the favorite to win the Games.
But the bid got a chilly reception from Greater Boston. Olympic opponents relentlessly attacked the bid over the financial risks posed by hosting the Games, as well as claims that leaders were not being transparent with the public. The public debate also coincided with a transportation crisis touched off by the snowiest winter in recorded history, which raised questions about the city’s ability to handle crowds.
In late July, with public support below 50 percent and Mayor Martin J. Walsh hesitant to pledge public money to backstopping the Games, the USOC pulled the plug. After moving on from Boston, the USOC quickly regrouped and is now backing two-time Olympic host Los Angeles in the contest for the 2024 Games.
Boston 2024 documents dated days after its demise say the committee’s estimated outstanding payroll totaled $325,000, including reimbursements, accrued vacation, and insurance coverage through August, according to the documents.
The committee estimated outstanding invoices at the time at $3.92 million, though one person familiar with the numbers says the estimate came down once some mistakes were corrected. The documents say $1.27 million was owed to Elkus Manfredi Architects, a key firm in the design of the committee’s Olympic venue plan; $550,000 to Interpublic Group, the parent company of public relations specialist Weber Shandwick; $377,000 to the transportation and civil engineering company VHB; $290,000 to Teneo Strategy, an international sports consultant; $396,000 to the advertising giant Hill Holliday; and $181,000 to Jon Tibbs Associates, a specialist in international relations and communications.
Teneo and Jon Tibbs Associates, which used to be listed as consultants to Boston 2024 in the International Olympic Committee’s registry, are apparently still involved with the US bid, now listed as consultants to the US Olympic Committee.
Boston 2024 owed $30,000 to Northwind Strategies, the political consulting firm overseen by former Deval Patrick aide Doug Rubin, and $45,000 to Keyser Public Strategies, whose president, Will Keyser, was a top strategist for Governor Charlie Baker’s campaign last year.
A representative for the David Ortiz Children’s Fund said Boston 2024 has still not paid the $7,500 it had committed for a table at a gala in June to benefit the organization, which works to provides pediatric health care in New England and the Dominican Republic. Ortiz, the beloved designated hitter for the Boston Red Sox, was a volunteer member of the bid committee’s board of directors, and starred in a Boston 2024 Web video endorsing the bid.
Facing shortfalls at the end of July, bid leadership decided to prioritize payments to small vendors, according to one person familiar with the committee’s plans. Boston 2024’s July 30 documents includes a list of 19 “high-priority” vendors, each of which was owed less than $21,000, according to the documents. One of those high-priority vendors, Color Copy Center, of Boston, was owed about $12,000 for a rush print job in June. After sending several notices complaining about the late payment, the copy business ultimately did get paid, said its owner, Jon Goose, in an e-mail exchange with the Globe in August.
The US has not hosted an Olympics since the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City. The last Summer Olympics in the US were the 1996 Atlanta Games.
The IOC will choose the 2024 host in 2017. Paris, Rome, Hamburg, and Budapest are expected to be in the running.