Twenty-five billion dollars.
Give or take a nine-figure rounding error, that’s what it likely would cost Boston to stage the 2024 Summer Olympics. That’s 10 times the city’s operating budget for this fiscal year if you want a sense of what the USOC calls the “scope and scale of the Games”.
While most hosts break even or end up in the black on the operational side thanks to sponsorships, TV rights, and ticket sales, it’s the cost of the venues and infrastructure that jacks the numbers into the stratosphere. London’s tab was nearly $20 billion and there’s little reason to believe that the Hub would have to spend less more than a decade from now.
The biggest challenge in a city with precious little open space would be to find or make enough of it for the Olympic cluster of sports facilities that has been standard at the last four Games. London, Beijing, Athens, and Sydney all built complexes from scratch that contained a massive stadium (70,000 seats minimum) for track and field, an aquatics center, and at least one arena as well as a media compound. Unless the mayor — whoever it is — wants to bring back the days of the BRA bulldozers, knock down a neighborhood that’s near multiple T stops, and turn it into a hardhat site for seven years, all at taxpayer expense, it’s a five-ringed fantasy.
That’s why the USOC, in last month’s letter to the mayors of 35 cities, spelled out the laundry list of requirements, from public transportation to hotel rooms to volunteers. Unless you’ve hosted this quadrennial clambake, you have no idea of the expensive complexities involved. Just getting into the chase costs a minimum of $10 million and the numbers increase geometrically from there.
The private Boston Olympic Exploratory Committee, whose chairman acknowledged that a bid is “a legitimately crazy idea”, still is in the pondering stage and the silence from City Hall, where Tom Menino will be long gone from the mayoralty in 11 years, is telling.
Los Angeles, which hosted in 1932 and 1984, is up for a third go and there’s interest from San Francisco, Dallas, and San Diego, which would co-host with Tijuana across the border. Chicago, which was smacked down for 2016, already has turned thumbs-down and there’s been no word from New York, a 2012 also-ran.
The USOC, which wants a streamlined process to keep costs down for the bidders, will have informal talks with interested cities and come up with a short list next year. “The decision is really a long way off for us at this point,” chief executive Scott Blackmun said after the recent board meeting.
Updated figuresThe Americans came away from last week’s world figure skating championships in London, Ontario, with what they figured to — a dance gold medal from Meryl Davis and Charlie White and 10 Olympic entries for Sochi, the same as they had for Vancouver. The difference is that there’ll be three women for the first time since 2006 but only two men for the first time since 1998. The big losers were the Russians, who dropped berths in both the women’s and men’s events. Their federation, desperate to get a second men’s entry, gambled on 17-year-old Maxim Kovtun, who was only fifth at the national championships. He finished 17th, which means that Russia is betting it all on Evgeni Plushenko, who is coming off back surgery, returning for a fourth Games at 31 .
Snow jobThe nasty weather that wiped out the Alpine speed races at last week’s World Cup finale in Switzerland killed Aksel Lund Svindal’s chances of overtaking Marcel Hirscher for the overall title and Tina Maze’s opportunity to claim the downhill crown. Svindal, who trailed by 149 points coming into the final four races, ended up finishing second to Hirscher by 309. And Maze, who’d clinched the Super G, giant slalom, and combined titles, needed only 2 points to pass injured Lindsey Vonn in the downhill. More wrenching for the overall champ, though, was watching US wunderkind Mikaela Shiffrin ski lights-out in the second slalom run to take the title after Maze had led by more than a second after the first one. The 18-year-old Shiffrin, who triumphantly held up the crystal globe as Maze wept nearby, was the first American to win the discipline title since Tamara McKinney in 1984 and the youngest since Germany’s Christa Zechmeister in 1974. She gets her Letterman shot Tuesday. “I hope I don’t trip when I go up on stage,” Shiffrin said . . . The US freestyle skiers mined a motherlode at the recent world championships in Norway with Hannah Kearney winning the women’s moguls and David Wise and Tom Wallisch the men’s halfpipe and slopestyle. The Americans, who tied the Canadians atop the medal table with 10, made the podium in eight of the 12 events.
Better in biathlonThe US men completed a promising season at last weekend’s World Cup biathlon finale in Russia with a trio of top 10 finishes by Tim Burke and Lowell Bailey. Burke, who won the first American medal in 26 years at the world championships, ended up 10th in the overall standings . . . While the Dutch long-trackers are expected to win seven of the 12 events at next weekend’s world single distance speedskating championships at the Olympic oval in Sochi, the Americans look good for three medals in the 1,000 meters with Shani Davis, Heather Richardson, and Brittany Bowe. Davis also has a medal shot in the 1,500, where he’s a two-time Olympic medalist, as does Richardson in the 500 . . . As expected, the Korean short-trackers won their fifth straight men’s title (with Sin Da Woon) and the Chinese women their fourth in six years (with Wang Meng claiming her third) at the world championships in Hungary, where the Americans were a predictable afterthought. JR Celski, who was fifth in the men’s 500, was the only competitor who came close to a medal. It was a lost season for the Yanks, who began it with a divisive coaching controversy and ended it overshadowed by the scandal involving former federation president Andy Gabel’s inappropriate sexual relationship with teenager Bridie Farrell when they were teammates in the late ’90s.
Surprisingly goodThe US women’s curling team’s 5-4 victory Monday over Canada at the world championships in Latvia was its first against its neighbor in seven years and put the Americans in contention for the medal round. At stake, too, are Olympic qualifying berths . . . Nudged out after 28 years on the job was USA Luge executive director Ron Rossi, the former Olympic slider who turned the program from up-the-track no-hopers into global medal winners. After two Games with nobody on the podium, three years without a global medalist, and seven seasons without a World Cup victory, the federation’s executive board concluded that it was time to “move the organization in a new direction” . . . The World Cup rowing season, which usually begins in Europe in May, starts down under in Sydney next weekend. The US will be sending the big boats as well as the women’s quad. Six of the women’s eight who won the Olympic title will be aboard, as will half of the men’s boat that just missed the podium plus two members of the bronze-medal quad.
John Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Material from Olympic committees, sports federations, personal interviews, and wire services was used.