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On 2024 Olympics, the time for discussion in Boston is now

The Olympic cauldron from the 1996 Games in Atlanta.Tami Chappell for The Boston Globe/file/Globe Freelance

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.

Boston residents are smart enough to understand that plans for a sporting event that's still a decade away could be in flux. A full-throated, open discussion about venues, logistics, and costs would have the benefit of building up support, and letting dissenters feel as if they've have been heard — rather than creating the sense that neighborhoods and businesses will simply be swept up in the juggernaut. Public openness needn't be a hyper-formal process. It's not too late for some of those neighborhood meetings, or open office hours at local restaurants or coffee shops, or participation in discussions and debates in the media. (Disclosure: The Globe Opinion staff is hosting one such discussion, open to the public and streaming on our website, on Dec. 8.)


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.