To warm up public support for a Summer Olympics in Boston, Boston 2024 needs to regain the public’s trust.
Doing that has nothing to do with weather, however eager Olympic backers may be to write off sinking poll numbers as a case of seasonal affective disorder.
“After one of our worst ever winters, we know that we need to be out across the city and state over the forthcoming days, weeks and months to build support and make the case that the 2024 Games would leave an extremely positive legacy for generations to come,” said Boston 2024 CEO Rich Davey in a statement from the bid committee’s PR firm, Northwind Strategies.
As strategy, that’s as backwards as it gets.
First, you build grass-roots support. Then, you go for the gold. Boston 2024 did the opposite and as of now, it’s backfiring. A small group of self-appointed cheerleaders got the US Olympic Committee to buy into the idyllic notion of beach volleyball on the Boston Common. The locals were expected to fall in line. But instead of seeing glory, the community saw a top-heavy operation with a $2 million payroll, mired in headlines about incestuous hires and false claims about the money supposedly available to fix public transportation.
Despite the huffing and puffing from Northwind Strategies, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh knows which way the real wind is blowing – against Boston 2024. That’s why he’s wisely trying to separate himself from its misguided way of doing business. Because of Walsh, Boston 2024 released a full list of salaries. Because of Walsh, former Governor Deval Patrick decided to give up his $7,500 per diem and instead, volunteer his services as a goodwill ambassador.
In the days ahead, Boston 2024 will argue that what’s needed to win the Olympics is exactly what this city needs to secure a winning future. Prepare for an all-out blitz to convince the populace that the Games are the glorious path to jobs, development and a better MBTA. That Boston doing what it needs for Boston isn’t enough — we need an Olympics to be world class.
Boston 2024’s problem: it doesn’t look like the future. It looks like the past. It’s the usual group of insiders trying to impose their self-serving definition of greatness on the city.
But the most recent WBUR poll shows the people surveyed do not buy into that definition, nor do they trust the purveyors of it. A survey of 504 registered voters in the Boston area shows that only 36 percent back the plan – down from 44 percent in February and 51 percent in January. The poll also shows 65 percent of voters now believe public funding is likely to be needed — despite Boston 2024’s assertion that the billions of dollars required to host the Olympics will be raised privately, except for infrastructure and security costs.
It will take more than sunshine to change that gloomy outlook.