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Boston goes for the cold!

Forget the Summer Olympics; let’s bid on the Winter Games

istockphoto/globe staff illustration

The city’s sports-industrial complex continues to hype the prospect of bringing the 2024 Summer Olympics to Boston, but as anyone who has looked out a window lately can see, we are really much better positioned to host the Winter Games. And since the only contenders for the 2022 winter round are the (earthquake-prone) city of Almaty, Kazakhstan, and the (smog-prone) city of Beijing, we’re also in a stronger position to win the big prize. Sure it’s officially too late to apply, but a girl can dream, can’t she? Consider the advantages:

First, the International Olympics Committee is particularly keen on making the Games “sustainable” by using as many existing resources as possible. Here we clearly have the edge on other cities: We have our own snow. In 2010, a slushy Vancouver was forced to fly in tons of the white gold by emergency airlift. Sochi, in subtropical Russia, employed two huge reservoirs in its snowmaking operation — command-economy efficient, no doubt, but hardly “sustainable.” The mountains around Beijing, the front-runner for the 2022 Winter Games, get less than 3 feet of snow a year. Heck, we beat that number in a weekend.


We’ll also have a ready supply of orange cones and folding chairs scattered around the city’s neighborhoods to use as obstacles for the slalom ski races. And the frozen surface of the Christian Science reflecting pool would be ideal for curling. Absurd? No more so than the current Boston 2024 proposal to dump truckloads of sand to the Boston Common for “beach’’ volleyball.

I imagine a roster of new events: the slip-and-fall competition, whereby elite athletes try to navigate Beacon Street without breaking a hip; synchronized snow-blowing; ice sculpting (who can carve the best likeness of John Fish in the shortest time); shovel-vaulting over the embankments left by the plows. Extra points if you can get to any of the venues by the MBTA. The 2018 Winter Games, in South Korea, plan to roll out the “biathlon mixed relay” — a combination of cross-country skiing and rifle-shooting, with men and women on the same team. We don’t like rifles much here, but we could offer snow-angel making and co-ed beer pong. And don’t forget Boston’s famous triple-parking triathlon.

Then there are the intangibles. Boston has a reputation for being a little starchy when it comes to revelry — our Puritan reputation is a hard thing to shake. But that could be a benefit, since the Olympic committee probably is looking for a more refined venue after the tabloid-worthy Vancouver experience. Those were the Games where one of the champion curlers posed topless, where the Norwegian cross-country ski champion blamed his poor performance on “watching too much porn,” and where America’s own bronze-medal winner in the snow-boarding half-pipe event was sent home early after he was photographed letting a woman kiss his . . . medal. No late-night bus service? No problem!


Let’s face it: Boston needs a civic and economic boost in the depths of February far more than we do in August. According to the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, Boston’s hotel occupancy rate in August is 91 percent, while in February it’s only 65 percent. That’s not surprising, given that we may be the only city on the planet where officials urge commuters not to take public transportation in a snow emergency. Watching a half-million visitors and 20,000 media gasbags try to navigate the Green Line would be even more entertaining than hearing them try to pronounce “Quinsigamond,” the lake in Grafton, where the Boston summer bid envisions holding the rowing competition.

What could go wrong? Massachusetts already has proved itself so adept at rolling out complicated initiatives, like medical marijuana, the new health care connector, or casino gambling. And if there’s any problem we can always blame Martha Coakley. Reuse, Recycle, Recriminate — that’s the Boston way!


It’s fair to say I’m a skeptic about the prospect of Boston hosting an efficient, transparent, fiscally sound Summer Olympics. But when it comes to the Winter Games, I’m a believer. In fact, I’m ready to offer my home to the Jamaican bobsled team — so long as I get their tropical digs in exchange.

Renée Loth's column appears regularly in the Globe.