THE IDEA that Boston could host the 2024 summer Olympics has generated plenty of interest, along with some choreographed press events, closed-door meetings with lawmakers, social media campaigns, and cheerful visibility at public events. A special commission, convened by the Legislature, held a series of public hearings at the State House before it issued a feasibility study in February. But since this summer, when Boston made the short list of American cities that might be put up for a 2024 bid, much of the open debate that Olympics boosters have been promising — neighborhood meetings, modeling demonstrations — has yet to materialize.
This is problematic, given the time frame. Boston is one of four finalists competing for selection by the United States Olympics Committee, along with Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Boston 2024, a private nonprofit corporation formed largely by civic leaders, is preparing an official bid, due on Dec. 1. By January, the USOC is likely to choose a US city, and to start preparing its formal application to the International Olympic Committee, which is expected to make a decision in 2017. If Boston gets the USOC nod, there's still a chance to turn back. But given the attention and the growing investment, that chance will feel increasingly remote.
Olympic boosters are understandably focused on putting their best foot forward for the USOC — particularly since Massachusetts has a history of turning back proposals for sports venues that require public funds. Indeed, lack of public discussion is a common complaint in cities considering Olympic bids. That's precisely why Boston should set an example. And USOC officials shouldn't view the airing of concerns as a sign that an Olympics wouldn't work.
There are, in fact, good arguments for an Olympic bid, ranging from jobs to a tourism boost; many of them are currently laid out on the Boston 2024 website. There are also good reasons to balk at the estimated $4.5 billion price tag (which boosters say would be paid through private funds, but which doesn’t include improvements to public infrastructure) and to wonder if the Olympics would distract from other pressing civic needs. And there are excellent reasons to make Bostonians feel involved and engaged, regardless of their views. Having those conversations should be seen as a boost to the cause — part of a democratic process that sets the United States apart from much of the world, and a tradition that makes Boston great, whether it hosts the Olympics or not.